The Institute of Basic Technology (IBT) has launched a three-day symposium exploring ways of training and preparing local high school STEM teachers for the 21st century. In addition, the goal of the gathering was to foster ongoing collaboration between the educators and the institute.
STEM is an acronym for Science, Technology, Engineering and Mathematics. IBT is a non-profit organization that aims to bridge the gap that exist in STEM education in Liberia. It provides hands on interactive laboratory training for high school students in support of the curricula taught at their schools. In the labs, they get to physically see and perform various science experiments.
The symposium, which started on Wednesday, June 13, 2018, brought together instructors from high schools in Monrovia and its environs. It also aimed to address the many challenges Liberia’s education system faced in technology and STEM education.
During the past academic year, approximately 435 students from seven schools benefited. These schools include the Saint Mark African Methodist Episcopal School, People’s Institute, George E. Simmond High School, the Voice of Education School System, Apostolic Foundation, Manson Center high school and the Building for Tomorrow International Mission School all in Sinkor.
The Institute of Basic Technology was started by Mr. Rodney L. Bollie and his wife Dr. Sylvia Bollie in 2016. In an exclusive interview with the Daily Observer on the opening day of the symposium, Mr. Bollie said, “it was important to know that Liberia, with a population of about 4.5 million, has approximately 55-60% of its people at 30 years of age or younger. From the survey conducted on the over 400 students we currently serve, average age of a senior student is 22 years old.”
He inferred that there is a relatively smaller population in the workforce compared to the untapped potential in the high schools. The need is therefore urgent to not only beef up the shrinking workforce but also adequately prepare the high school population to positively influence the economy. On the other hand, if they are not fully prepared, Liberia as a country would have to continue to source the needed manpower from abroad.
Bollie stated that IBT currently has 5 laboratories in the following STEM disciplines: Biology, Chemistry, Physics, Mathematics and Computer education. In addition, the Institute recently added a Robotics club as well as a Chess club to the program. He encouraged students to take advantage of these free opportunities to improve their future.
“We ran a pilot program in 2016, when we worked with one of the schools in Sinkor area, and we taught Mathematics, Physics Chemistry and Biology, to see how well the concept will actually work. After we did that about 33 students passed the WAEC at the time,” Bollie said.
It was launched officially in November 2017 by inviting about seven schools to be a part of the initiative.
“It is our hope that in the near to future to be able to reach out to high school students in other parts of The country as we continue to prepare them for college or a vocational profession,” he added.
Meanwhile, the director of Technical and Vocational Education Training (TVET) at the Ministry of Education, Sangay M. Faeflen, said government is doing everything possible to strengthen the STEM education system in the country.
She said even though much has not been done by government over the years especially when it comes to funding and how to impact the young generation regarding WASSCE, any institution that is willing to close up the gap in the area of science, the Ministry would consider working with them.
At the same time Doris Myers, founder of LESSAT, said if every country must move ahead in development there has to be what she called “generational thinkers.” The young, eloquent speaker, who also served as a panelist during the Symposium, noted that if government has people who craft policies in the education sector of the country and do not think of the next generation, then Liberia will continue to experience a huge gap in education, most especially in the area of science.
She however called on current government, through the Ministry of Education, to be reminded that if Liberia must run on par with other African countries and the world at large, leaders must start thinking beyond the next generation.