Vietnam, Education, Inspirational Stories

STEM Education for Women and Girls

Jul 7,2023

As Vietnamese education progresses, it is following the trend of other countries in innovating its teaching methods. The STEM education model, a world-renowned early education approach, is now widely applied in Vietnamese schools. The Government of Vietnam has piloted the STEM education program in several provinces and cities since 2017, with many places now officially selecting and widely applying this model.

In previous years, the Ministry of Education and Training has implemented exercises and competitions in this direction in secondary schools: applying interdisciplinary knowledge to solve practical situations or implementing the STEM Education initiative – SchoolLab for high school students. At the outset of the pilot program, these exercises and competitions had a transformative and widespread impact on teaching and learning in high schools across the country, resulting in deeper and more practical learning based on real-world experiences. However, these exercises and competitions are still only offered in the form of contests and lectures and have not yet become a regular and popular voluntary activity for teachers.

The current state of STEM implementation in high schools is reflected in formats such as STEM club activities, competitions, creative experience activities, coordinated organization of STEM activities between schools and private organizations, STEM events, and STEM festivals.

It is evident that the STEM education model has had a positive impact initially, providing a good foundation for future progress. However, several challenges and restrictions still need to be addressed. Although STEM education is widespread in Vietnam, it has not yet reached its full potential

Furthermore, there are many barriers and limitations in STEM education for women and girls, as well as women in science. According to the UNESCO Institute of Statistics (2019), women continue to be a minority in science, accounting for less than 30% of the total global research workforce. Women comprise only 28% of the STEM workforce in the United States. However, despite efforts to narrow gender disparities, the percentage of women participating in STEM increased by only 2% from 2013 to 2019.

Many psychologists believe social prejudice has significantly impacted women’s interests, motivation, and career choices in science. The prevailing stereotype is that women working in science must work harder and have less time to care for their families. Additionally, there is a common perception that the salary for women in science is not as high as that of their male counterparts.

Old-fashioned customs, such as gender-based discrimination, continue to exist in Vietnam, and women’s pursuit of STEM fields is often stigmatized. Science, engineering, mechanics, and IT are commonly considered male-dominated fields with limited female participation. Moreover, there is a lack of widespread successful female role models in STEM in Vietnam. Famous scientists featured in the media are predominantly men, reinforcing the stereotype that these fields are exclusively for men.

Therefore, there is a global effort to increase the participation of women and girls in the STEM field. The Vietnamese government, specifically the Ministry of Education and Training, has also been discussing with Kenan Foundation Asia about its STEM education strategy. They have expressed the desire to promote and develop STEM education for female students at all school levels in Vietnam

To support the Vietnamese government’s efforts to promote women and girls’ participation in STEM, Kenan VN has developed Proposal ‘A.’ The proposal will be piloted in Bac Ninh province, targeting secondary school girls and teachers. The proposal’s primary focus is to enhance gender skills and awareness among female STEM teachers and provide hands-on training on how to encourage and motivate women and girls to participate in green STEM clubs and activities.

Specifically, using the activity model of green STEM clubs run by experts and trained teachers, female students can participate in club activities such as learning and practicing the process of building a project on a scientific product and participating in competitions at all levels with their project models. They will also receive training on soft skills crucial in the 21st century, such as critical thinking, teamwork, creativity, and presentation skills. This project will serve as a pilot model that can be applied and replicated nationwide.

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