DEVELOPMENT OF STEM APPROACH AND STEM CENTERS IN BELARUS
Since 2017 the Association “Education for Future” has been promoting conceptual research and practical implementation of STEM-approach in Belarusian education.
STEM IN EDUCATION
STEM approach is one of global trends in modern education, the idea of which contributes to the goal of narrowing the gap between education and socio-economic sphere. STEM stands for S – Science, T – Technologies, E – Engineering, M – Mathematics.
In the most general terms STEM-abbreviation refers to the disciplines in the natural, technological, engineering sciences and mathematics, aimed at training of specialists for the innovation economy.
Important principles of STEM-approach are:
— establishing of intersubjective communication STEM disciplines and all other teaching branches of study;
— focusing on significant practical problems;
— using of the project approach and team work;
— high degree of students' autonomy in search for answers and solutions, a teacher plays a role of facilitator or mentor;
— using “creative resources” and digital media solutions.
In October-November 2018 by the Association “Education for Future” the research of STEM-approach to education was conducted. Its results can be found here.
STEM CENTERS OPENING ON THE BASIS OF BELARUSIAN SCHOOLS
STEM center is a class opened on the basis of a general secondary education institution where children under the guidance of specially trained teachers can study for free the main STEM areas and work on their own STEM projects.
The first STEM center in Belarus, “STEM-Park”, was established on December 16, 2017, in the State educational institution “Borisov Secondary School No. 20” with the assistance of the Association “Education for Future”.
In April 2018 the Association “Education for Future” launched a project to create a whole network of STEM centers based on regional institutions of general secondary education in Belarus. The aim of the project is to provide an opportunity for high-quality and innovative school education for a maximum number of children. A stable system of STEM-centers can not only act as a means of social mobility for capable children, but also contribute to the development of regional towns and villages. In total, 7 STEM centers appeared in 2018 and by the end of the year 847 children had already studied in them.
At the end of 2018 the Association “Education for Future” holds a national competition “I want to study in STEM class!”, according to the results of which 10 schools and gymnasiums are chosen in which STEM-centers are going to be opened in 2019. The institutions of general secondary education that participated in the competition (this is more than 250 applications) form a reserve of institutions, what will be guided by when creating a system of STEM centers in the future.
The opening of each STEM center requires the purchasing of equipment for classes: laptops, sets for robotics, additional equipment depending on the school's needs. The purchase is made due to sponsors – specific IT company – and the equipment is transferred to the educational institution in accordance with the decree No. 300 of the President of the Republic of Belarus dated July 1, 2005.
Employees of the trustee company can see the results of their contribution, as well as participate in the fate of talented children from small towns and villages by providing expertise to school STEM-projects.
TYPES OF STEM-CENTERS
Depending on the interests of students, STEM-centers can have different thematic areas with an emphasis on one or another STEM component. The direction of a STEM center is reflected in availability of additional equipment in a class, as well as in its design solution.
A separate type of STEM center is Junior STEM center, designed for primary school children. Junior STEM-center can be the first step in introducing children to the world of algorithms, robotics and experimental science. Junior STEM-center differs from a usual STEM-center with a set of training equipment.
Since the STEM-approach to education emphasizes the importance of developing of students' technical and humanitarian skills, STEAM centers begin to open along with STEM centers: now Art-component is included in a set of basic disciplines. In STEAM centers pupils can engage in media journalism, digital music, painting, etc.
The Association's plans are to make the system of STEM-centers in a multilevel way. The network of regional STEM-classes is planned to be supplemented by regional STEM-hubs, in which the most gifted schoolchildren of regional STEM-centers can be engaged in engineering and technical creativity together with college and university students. In the future, all regional STEM hubs should be coordinated with the national STEM-center in Minsk, which prepares children for international competitions.
Publications on the opening of STEM centers:
STEM centers in the State Educational Institution "Educational-pedagogical complex preprimary school – secondary school No. 24 of Borisov" and the State Educational Institution "Loshnitsa Gymnasium of the Borisov District" – April 9
STEM-centers in Lelchitsy Secondary School No. 1, Gymnasium No. 3 of Baranovichi, Gymnasium No. 4 of Baranovichi – September 1, September 4
Junior STEM-center in the State Educational Institution “Secondary School No. 13 of Brest n.a. V.Hovan” – March 5, 2019
STEM-center in the State Educational Institution "Secondary School No. 10 of Pinsk" – April 9
STEM-center in the State Educational Institution "Gymnasium No. 3 of Bobruisk" – April 17
STEAM-center in the State Educational Institution “Secondary School No. 2 of Dubrovno” – May 29