Gender Equality in STEM
In relationship with the first Pequeiios Cientificos initiative, in 2018 the Colombian Academy ot Sciences created STEM-ACADEMIA in order to promote a quality education in the STEM areas with support in the state of the art in the teaching of these disciplines. This initiative is boosted by the experience of 20 years of the Pequeiios Cientificos program (Duque, Celis, & Celis, 2011; Duque, Uzcanga, & Gomez, 2015), equally ascribed to the IBSE programs of the network of the worlds academies.
This approach is based on problem solving, scaffolding in explicit teaching and learning activities, with a strong component ot concrete and semi-concrete manipulation and development of spatial thinking in line with what recent research has shown (Cross, Woods, Schweingruber, & NRC, 2009; Dehaene, 2018; Kilpatrick, Swafford, & Findell, 2001), with particular benefit for women (New- come, 2017; UNESCO, 2017). Particular emphasis has been placed on the area of mathematics for its relationship with the current gender imbalance in the preference ot STEM professions, and the subsequent performance in these areas (National Research Council, 2016).
The Chilean program “Girls Can Create, Undertake and Innovate” is focused on strategic communication to foster gender equality on STEM education, leaded by the NGO “Women Comuni- dad Mujer” [Women Community] and supported by the national government, UNESCO and the European Union. Their goals are to promote scientific vocations in girls, to transform the teacher profession to one that takes gender equality to the classroom and to foster educational contexts free of gender stereotypes. Here STEM education is considered, for the current gender inequalities in the STEM professions and as a tool to integrate in a creative way.
Given the fact that in Mexico, young girls don’t visualize themselves as STEM professionals in their future, STEM Movement and INNOVEC has separately started STEM programs with a gender perspective from kindergarten to high school. STEM movement empowers young girls facilitating them opportunities to explore the sciences and work with them to expand their potential to consider engineer, math or science careers.
On the other hand, the office of UNESCO in Mexico and Siemens Stiftung Foundation in collaboration with INNOVEC in 2017 launched an initiative based on the Experimento program whose purpose is the teaching ot inquiry-based science with a gender perspective. The program is still in progress and has been refined by experts in science education and gender.
“Ninas STEM pueden” [STEM Girls Can] is another pilot initiative supported by the National Ministry ot Education and some outstanding women in science and technology careers. The program seeks to promote the interest ot girls and adolescents in different careers related to science, technology, engineering and mathematics, which generates a conviction of aptitude to these areas, as well as empowering them to recognize and use their knowledge and skills.3
In the case ot Peru, there are no STEM programs with a regional or national scope focused on gender equality in STEM education. An important effort of the members of the STEAM Peruvian Foro for working cooperatively to promote equal opportunities for girls is the one made in the Emblematic Educational Institution Juana Alarco de Dammert, a public school for girls that has a population of more than 3000 students. Here they focus on the integration ot STEM areas, making alliances with external public and private institutions to strength their institutional capabilities in this direction. Nevertheless, STEM education with gender perspective is still a field to be developed in Peru.
The initiatives listed in this section can be considered as a sub-group of the integrated inquiry-based science education initiatives. We decided to highlight this kind of initiative as place-based gives the opportunity to learn in specific contexts, solving daily life problems from an interdisciplinary scope. They are related to project and problem-based methods, and each program fosters educative innovations following an integrated STEM perspective.
In Colombia, in the STEM-ACADEMIA program, a “Teacher Professional Development” strategy has been assumed in coherence with what research shows on this subject (Borko, 2004; Jayaram, Moffit, & Scott, 2012), with focus on pedagogical content knowledge (PCK) (Abell, Rogers, Deborah, & Gagnon, 2009; Davis & Krajcik, 2005; Magnusson, Krajcik, & Borko, 2002; Shulman, 1986), project-based learning from an engineering perspective in design activities, prototyping and use of ICTs to solve problems that are posed to students and promote computational thinking. These educational projects, based on the school’s contexts, should serve tor the application and consolidation of previous learning in each of the STEM areas and to increase understanding in aspects that imply an integrated view ot the STEM areas.
In Peru the program “Mathematics for All + Communication” considers that mathematical competence is a human activity that is inserted in the culture and influenced by it, in which communicative resources are used to propose, represent and solve problems of the surrounding context, allowing students to understand the “why” behind each learning. From mathematics, the child begins to develop his oral expression from the observation and analysis of everyday situational images that are linked to STEM issues. By these means, students manage to recognize their environment and express themselves orally, ordering their thinking to be understood, to raise ideas of solution, to argue, to recognize their mistakes and to overcome them; as it also improves their vocalization, vocabulary and learning to express themselves to their peers in a proper and assertive manner.
Have Fun and Learn—UPCH is a program that aims to provide children with the educational tools and experiments to find the answers to the functioning ot nature. With this program, skills such as teamwork, inquiry, innovation, answering problems, designing novel proposals and learning to learn are strengthened. There is a version of the “Have Fun and Learn with Experiments” held at open doors, that is, in public spaces where the whole community is invited to participate in an event for spreading the sciences and the STEAM approach. (Universidad Peruana Cayetano Heredia, 2018)
The SABE Project is a project financed by the government of Peru and other private resources to learn through one of the main culturally relevant activities ot the country: gastronomy and food production. Through the food education methodology, the SABE Project teaches people to appreciate the cultural and social importance of food—making use of the senses, passing through the pleasure of taste, cultural identity and for cooking, until you reach the dish to understand where the agricultural products come from, who grows them and how they are produced. Considering the aforementioned, the intention to integrate STEAM areas and ancestral knowledge becomes evident. This initiative was implemented in 2017 in nine schools in the Lima region, reaching 570 students and 26 teachers at the primary level. The National Innovation Program for Competitiveness and Productivity (Innovate Peru) drove these actions, considering the legal framework of the Science Popularization Program of the National Council ot Science, Technology and Technological Innovation (CONCYTEC).
You learn about the transformation of energy with food. We cook and reflect on the effect of the discovery of fire in our evolution. We learn about these transformations using the scientific method and approach children to science, using the kitchen as a scientific laboratory, making experiments with edible results.
In Chile, the “Experimento program” in the Araucania region has been working for the last five years in making adaptations for inquiry-based STEM learning and its relationship with local traditional knowledge in indigenous contexts. Bascope and Caniguan (2016) presented a pedagogical approach adapted to the Chilean national curriculum, with five dimensions of traditional knowledge that can be considered to foster place-based learning in STEM. Using this framework and with the support of the public and private sector, the project in the south of Chile developed pedagogical resources, such as inquiry-based structured activities, with instructions for teachers and students and game-based resources to foster guided and open inquiry, made by the students about their contexts, traditions and ancient knowledge (Bascope & Gutierrez, 2019).
Territorial Alliances: Partnerships Between ONG, Practitioners, Researchers, Civil Society and the State to Foster STEM Education
Even though it is harder to find national or federal efforts towards STEM education in Latin America, some local, regional and state-level initiatives have been created and implemented in recent years. Unlike the previous programs revised, the STEM territory focus is a multi-sectorial alliance with common objectives around STEM education, which foster exchange and collaboration among participants to strength the educational chain.
Installation of STEM territories in Latin America had been fostered by an academic and private effort rather than pushed by a specific policy. However, the idea ot establishing territories is inherently a political statement to articulate private and public initiatives towards the strength ot the educational chain. In this section, we will review a number ot regional initiatives towards the consolidation of STEM involving local authorities, universities, NGOs and the private sector.
In the case of Chile, we will highlight three territorial STEM initiatives in three different regions of the country. A big initiative with a national scope established in 2017 was “Coalicion STEAM” (STEAM Coalition), conformed by a transdisciplinary group of people coming from civil society, education, industry, academia, STEAM disciplines and the public sector. After seven months ot technical working sessions, complemented with interviews with successful educational experiences and a teacher survey, six powerful ideas were proposed to foster short and mid-term action: (1) our schools can be transformed into STEAM schools (it is possible under the current legislation), (2) more active and contextualized learning is needed, (3) our teachers want to change, but they need support, (4) it is necessary to build a STEM culture, (5) we should promote lifelong learning and connect the different steps, and (6) articulation of the existent efforts (Corporacion de Fomento de la Produccion, 2017).
Also, in the Valparaiso region of Chile, the Latin American Observatory of Sciences’ Didactics (OLADIC), a group of regional universities and the Regional Secretary of Education together, started in 2018 a round table to stablish strategic lines for action in the region towards STEAM education. The three main lines defined were: (1) education, innovation and entrepreneurship; (2) sustainability; and (3) heritage and identity. The recently created network has the objective ofjoining inter-sectorial efforts towards STEAM initiatives with local pertinence.6
In the south of Chile another multi-sectorial initiative has been launched during 2018. A group of national and international NGOs leaded by Siemens Stiftung along with Pontificia Universidad Catolica de Chile started the “Alliance for Educational Innovation for Sustainable Development”, with the mission of impulse and foster STEAM educational opportunities for sustainable development, articulating public and private efforts. The main line of action is teacher training and followup, led by the university to impulse innovation in pedagogical strategies, for the development of creativity and critical thinking, connecting the schools with their local contexts.
Peru is territorially divided into regions where the foundations of educational decentralization are contemplated. It must be noted that since 2002, the decentralization process began, including that of educational services (Law No. 27783). In this context, it is necessary to highlight the importance of the Declaration of the Tacna Region as a STEAM territory.' This region has implemented different programs tor more than two years under the STEAM approach, such as the “implementation of Robotics at the regional level” that seeks the integration of curricular competences and areas committed to solving specific problems of the community, achieving the development of skills and competencies required in the 21st century. This type of program has been strengthened in cooperation with other actors such as the British Council, Cayetano Heredia University, Instituto APOYO and Fab Lab, among others.
Another evidence of STEAM education in public policy is the Municipality of the District of Miraflores in Lima that has presented its Local Education Project, which has as its main axis the STEAM approach and territorial criteria to develop and promote educational innovation and the development of 21st-century competencies. This project provides opportunities to learn to think, investigate, reflect and create at the school level (Municipality of Miraflores, 2018).
In Colombia, Medellin, one of the most important cities in the country, declared in 2016 to be a STEM+H territory.8 With a focus mainly on secondary education, STEM+H scope tor Medellin has the purpose of fomenting in students skills such as research, leadership, inquiry, innovation and the prospective vision to generate knowledge from the classroom in a meaningful way, where priority is not just science but human and social development.
In the case of Mexico, a recently launched movement called “Movimiento STEM” has the mission of creating ecosystems of multiple partners towards fostering STEM by means of (1) empowering and training teachers, (2) developing vocations towards the STEM pipeline for careers and (3) linking STEM talents with companies and the industry.9 They have recently launched a document named “Vision STEM para Mexico” [STEM Vision tor Mexico] with an historical national and international analysis of the evolution of the STEM concept and with the pedagogical and educational concepts, to guide new efforts and to consolidate the existents (Movimiento STEM, 2019).
Similarly, INNOVEC, with the support of the educational authorities of the state of Mexico, has very recently established the country’s first STEM territory, with the purpose of coordinating efforts, offering high-quality educational resources and providing teacher training in the creation and design of STEM practices for their students. The launch ot the STEM territory was carried out through an education forum in November 2018, which started with the creation of networks and alliances between different actors to promote STEM education: the state government, educational centers, parents ot family, companies, private institutions of national and international character among others.
The STEM Territory in the state of Mexico will seek to strengthen primary and higher education. It aims to develop competencies in students to generate the foundations of a society with the skills and attitudes to face the challenges ot technological development and innovation and allow for an informed, critical and tolerant population that can make decisions in favor of a healthy life and respect for their environment and community.