LAGOS, NIGERIA – While watching CNN Business the other day, I came across a very important statement which said: “Information is the currency in today’s global market and world economy” and I thought to myself indeed, how true this statement is. Information has and will continue to set nations apart and will determine which nations continue to occupy the lower, middle or upper rungs of world dominance.
This brings me to the main thrust of today: science education and the attention being paid to it in developing nations, as well as how science and technology fares in such countries around the world.
There are several challenges to science education in developing nations: policy formulation, political will, funding, infrastructure, low enrolment in schools due to poverty, war, economic stability, outdated curricula, inexperienced teachers, lack of learning resources, and the list goes on…
It is a well-known fact that different nations have embraced science and technology on different levels. Moreover, the development and advancement of any society is directly proportional to the amount of investments and advancements it is making in science and technology. Therefore, the quality of science education has a great impact on the growth of a nation’s economy, which in turn directly impacts the quality of life experienced by a particular nation. We might also say that the amount of direct capital investments that a nation puts into science education will relate to the technological and scientific advancements it will make on a larger scale.
The impact of science and technology in any nation has a ripple effect in larger society. Countries with a high technological level will ultimately enjoy more prosperity and a higher standard of living, as they are better able to produce solutions to the issues faced by various sectors of their economy.
At a stage of attaining full competency, such knowledge and technologies can be exported abroad with huge profits being made on it. It is also a well-known fact that technologically advanced nations tend to produce and export, which in turn generates consistent cash flow and finances for them, while technologically deficient nations tend to be consumers and expend a lot of finance and foreign exchange importing technologies, products and solutions which they do not have the technical skills or know-how to produce. This, in turn, ultimately leads to the technological and financial imbalance we experience in today’s world.
The issue of science education starts from an early age, when an individual is gradually introduced to the concepts of science and technology. When a child’s curiosity is stirred, the appeal of technology and an interest in science grows. I wonder at this stage, how many geniuses developing nations have failed to identify, or maybe even have lost completely, due to the mere fact that an enabling environment was not available to nurture such an interest and groom such youths into today’s science gurus and problem solvers. Many of them have drifted far away into other professions, their talents never harnessed and put to use.
An important issue to consider is how many countries have made concerted efforts to invest in science education from the get-go – starting from elementary schools, or have come up with policies that will directly impact the success of a national policy framework for science and technology. Opinions, ideas, and personalities are molded and shaped in an individual from a young age, therefore the next Einstein may not be found in university, but rather may be discovered as early as elementary school.
The Way Forward:
I believe that the educational system in developing nations needs to be evaluated critically, and that a national science and technology framework be put in place and protected by adequate laws and policies. Furthermore, science and technology must be introduced and prioritized starting in elementary school. This introduces the concept of globalization into the minds of students at an early age, as they are able to learn about the technological advancements taking place in other parts of the world. By looking at their own countries, they will gradually ask more and more questions, identify areas for improvement, and bring about lasting changes in their own nations.
There also needs to be a “Train the Teachers” campaign in which science and technology instructors undergo constant and regular training in order to keep their knowledge and skills up to date, ensuring that they pass on relevant information to their students.
Strong funding and capital investments by government and private sectors must also be implemented. The quality of science education made available to learners will then undergo a ripple effect. Fully functional and equipped science laboratories must be built across all levels of learning, from elementary to university. Science subjects must also be prioritized and not brushed aside. There are creative ways in which science education can be fun, exciting, and appealing to learners in order to ignite their interest and increase their participation.
In summary, developing nations have not fared badly, but we still have a long way to go. The world economy has gone from being based in agriculture to industry, and from there to technologically and knowledge-based economy. Any nation that is to succeed in today’s ever-changing and dynamic world must pay attention to knowledge and information acquisition. Looking at the disparity between developing and developed nations, I believe that with the right policies, willpower, singleness of purpose, and funding, developing nations around the world will be better-able to make significant contributions to in the realm of technological and scientific innovation, as well as become active producers and exporters of science, technology, and information.