A Stem education
A new method of teaching science, technology, engineering and mathematics in an applied approach is being promoted by the IPST
Students are expected to be equipped for the 21st century, including necessary work skills, creativity and the ability to bring innovation and competence to the IT sector, but the number of those studying science and technology falls at every grade level.
The Institute for the Promotion of Teaching Science and Technology (IPST) has initiated a new approach by emphasising knowledge and skills which are suitable to professional life in a highly competitive economy and society. This is known as STEM education.
STEM education is a learning innovation in which science, technology, engineering and mathematics are integrated. This approach engages learners in applying knowledge to problems in daily life, as well as finding new processes or solutions to benefit their lives and occupations through project-based and problem-based learning activities.
According to IPST director Pornpun Waitayangkoon, learners with experience in STEM activities or projects will be better prepared to work in demanding positions in various sectors including agriculture, industry, energy, environmental management, health services and transportation.
"The implementation of STEM activities or projects is not limited to lessons in science, mathematics, vocational training or technology. STEM can be integrated with other subjects such as fine arts, Thai language, English language, health and physical education," explained Pornpun.
"It is a pedagogical approach that integrates science, mathematics, technology and engineering processes for solving problems in one’s daily life. One of its key features is the combination of engineering design with learning in science, mathematics and technology. Students develop their knowledge and skills in science, mathematics and technology through activities, which provide them with the opportunity to apply new knowledge via the engineering process to solve real life problems, and finally achieve solutions or develop technology as a result."
Another outstanding feature of STEM education is integration, which helps students connect knowledge from the four disciplines with their daily and professional lives.
Besides skills in analytical thinking and creating innovations, STEM education has learners understand and have an increased interest in STEM-related careers. Public and private sectors collaboratively promote activities organised by teachers and educational personnel. Pedagogical methods and interconnection among eight subject groups are developed. High performance STEM-related human resources are produced to increase Thailand’s economic potential.
The director noted that STEM education should be not offered only to high school students who are going to enter university, because of the 12 million students nationwide, only 25-30% go to university, while the rest are those who finish a compulsory nine-year education, are vocational certified or high school students. A majority of the country's workforce have studied nine or 12 years.
“So we think that STEM must be the approach brought to the classroom from primary to high school, university and professionals so that Thailand can achieve what we expect to develop the country,” said Pornpun, adding that the process of measurement and assessment must be done together, based on the Program for International Student Assessment (PISA) scale.
"We have to monitor the classroom. School directors must comprehend and realise the importance of STEM education. Teachers and directors are the key persons who join the initiative pushing the performance of students," she added.
The STEM Education Network objectives are to encourage integrated learning activities and enhance student creativity and application of knowledge in daily or professional life, and to establish a collaborative network of public and private organisations and personnel in promoting STEM education in Thailand.
This network includes the National STEM Education Centre, 13 Regional STEM Education Centres, which were founded last year, schools in the STEM Education Network and other supporting networks. Regional STEM Education Centres are located in large-scale secondary schools in selected provinces, each centre works as a hub of academic support for teachers and educational personnel in the region and disseminates the STEM education concept in its areas of responsibility. These centres also act as a co-ordinating agency linking IPST, local personnel and institutes in basic and higher education, as well as other public and private organisations.
Each of the 13 STEM Education Centres is a centre for six satellite schools in their locations: two primary schools, two secondary schools and two opportunity extension schools. In Bangkok, there are two centres: Bodindecha School and Samsenwittayalai School.
The STEM Education Network also consists of subordinate networks and systems to support the operation of the major units. These include the Academic Mentor University Network, Supervisor Network, Academic Mentor Network, STEM Ambassador network, STEM Personnel Recognition Program and iSTEM Resource Centre.
The implementation of STEM is under way in schools nationwide. By the end of this year, it is expected that it will be used in 91 schools around the country with STEM management model and STEM Education standard.
Education manager of Intel Microelectronics (Thailand) Sattiya Langkhapin has provided financial support worth $50,000 (1.6 million baht) to the National STEM Centre as Intel found that this approach can build up the children from the fundamental.
"We found that the model is practical, with this kind of development, teachers cannot do it alone, but they need professional community and have the knowledge exchange," she said, adding that parents should encourage schools to use STEM learning and teaching as a project-based learning style that will encourage learners to think and have problem-solving skills.