The recent success of the STEM Guyana team at the just concluded 2017 Global Challenge in Washington, DC, is yet another example of what our young people could achieve once they are provided with the necessary opportunities. After three days of fierce competition, the team was able to cop the 10th position out of a total of 165 countries overall, even topping the points board on day one of the competition. It should be mentioned too that technology heavyweights such as Russia, China and the United States were also part of the completion.
The way the Guyana team performed has shown what can be done considering the fact the team only had a few months to prepare for the Robotics competition. The team was able to band together and more importantly represent their country well at such a high-level competition.
The success of the team is a perfect example of Guyanese ingenuity and creativity. It shows that inspite of the many challenges at home and the negative perceptions persons usually have of Guyanese, our young people can still rise to the challenge and be counted among some of the leaders in the various fields. For Guyana to compete for the very first time against 165 countries that have much experience in the field and come out in 10th place is a tremendous achievement and will serve as a motivation to others who have an interest in the so-called STEM subjects – Science, Technology, Engineering and Mathematics.
Certainly, the investments made over the years in improving performances in STEM subjects are beginning to show results. As stated by First Lady Sandra Granger, the success of the team is a testimony of what investments, particularly by Government and the Private Sector in STEM education can yield for young Guyanese.
The importance of focusing on STEM education could never be overemphasised due to their importance to national development. Our leaders, from both the past and current Administrations have recognised the need to create more opportunities for our young people to further their studies in STEM subjects.
Over the past few months, President David Granger has been actively promoting STEM education and encouraging students and teachers to pay more attention to the four STEM subjects. He had said this is an important aspect of Government policy as it is the future of Guyana. The President’s National Endowment for Science and Technology (NEST) programme, which provides funding to schools for investment in STEM is a laudable initiative. There should be other similar programmes; some of which could be Private Sector-driven, geared towards improving performances of students in various areas.
Every student who has a desire to further their studies in STEM subjects should be afforded the opportunity to do so. We feel that once the necessary facilities are provided, such as laboratories, etc, more young people will be drawn to these areas of study.
Additionally, more students should be encouraged to focus on STEM subjects to advance their chances in the job market. This is necessary as it will help them to become innovative. It will also help them to be equipped with the necessary skills to contribute to national development. Some persons see STEM as “hard subjects”. When one looks at the number of students graduating from the university, it is evident that more students are gravitating to the social sciences. However, if this trend continues, we would continue to see graduates coming out of the university for whom the job market would be severely limited.
While there is need for qualified persons in the arts and humanities and other fields, there is also a need for experts in science and technology; hence, more attention should be provided to encourage children who are gifted in science and technology to explore their passion. In essence, considering the national needs of the country, STEM is seen sustainable. If students undertake STEM subjects, they can be assured of job opportunities, not only here in Guyana, but in many other countries.
The excellent performance of the STEM Guyana team should be celebrated by all Guyanese.