Having organised the National Science and Maths Quiz (NSMQ) for 29 years, it is time to commit resources to assess its impact in the promotion of science, technology, engineering and mathematics (STEM) education in the country.
Such research will help track the effectiveness of the competition in a more scientific and systematic way to direct its future organisation.
The Quiz Mistress of the NSMQ, Professor Elsie Effah Kaufmann, said such an exercise was also important because it would give direction to the STEM programme.
“On a small scale, the producers of the NSMQ have been tracking former contestants and we know that many of them are doing very well outside the country and making a huge impact in their chosen fields, mostly STEM-related.
“We know because they reach out and follow the competition and also help in mentoring young contestants,” Prof. Kaufmann said in an interview with the Daily Graphic ahead of the start of this season’s competition.
She said by and large, the objective of the producers of the competition, which is to encourage the study of science and mathematics, had been achieved, given the heightened interest in the quiz.
“At least, it can be said that science and maths have been demystified in schools and students are always looking forward to the competition,” she added.
Prof. Kaufmann, however, observed that “there are not sufficient females up there to mentor young females, particularly in academia”.
“They are encouraged to come on board in STEM, but somehow along the line they are abandoned and there is very limited support system to keep the females in there; only a few survive the journey in STEM,” she said.
According to her, there were no deliberate interventions and programmes to support females in STEM programmes, saying while inroads had been made in the biological sciences, the same could not be said for physics and engineering.
“There is a significant impact, but that is only felt in the biological sciences where we have many medical doctors, pharmacists, among others, but the same cannot be said for engineering and physics.
“For instance, I tried to get some female professors to help in a research programme in engineering and I was able to find only three, with all of them coming from the UMAT. None of them was from our celebrated Kwame Nkrumah University of Science and Technology (KNUST).
“STEM has a leaky pipeline along the way and so when the ladies get in and try to make it up to the top, they fall off along the way,” Prof. Kaufmann said.
She said it was important to look at the base and within the starting points, identify those who had the interest and potential, pick them up and support and motivate them to stay the course,” she said.
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