Developing STEM education for marginalised groups in low-income communities


Project period: January 2017 – May 2017

GW4 community leads
University of Bath: Professor Catherine Montgomery
University of Bristol: Professor Justin Dillon
Cardiff University: Dr Jamie Lewis
University of Exeter: Dr Nasser Mansour

Project overview

The aim of this project is to build a research community that will share knowledge, expertise and resources in research and engagement with STEM education in low income countries, particularly for girls and women and indigenous or rural populations in developing countries in Sub-Saharan Africa and the Americas.

STEM education is seen as an opportunity to develop industrialising economies with improved access to employment for young people and graduates (Roberts, 2012). Advanced industrial countries have engaged in strong curriculum reform, adapting school practices to engage with problem solving, mathematics, and scientific thinking (Marginson et al, 2013).

However, issues of unequal access, approaches to pedagogy, limitations in resources and infrastructure mean that engagement with STEM education is a challenge in low income countries and ironically, this is where effective STEM education is most needed (Freeman et al, 2015).

Providing equal access to quality education is a global challenge. UNESCO has named improving quality education and reducing inequalities as two of its 17 sustainable development goals (UNESCO, 2016). In sub-Saharan Africa, secondary education is expanding rapidly and many disadvantaged rural communities have their first secondary school (e.g. Tanzania, Malawi).

These are often poor quality though with very few students progressing from lower to upper secondary. Sciences in particular are challenged for shortage of qualified teachers and lab equipment for upper secondary. Hence, secondary education is a bottle neck for science specialists who face challenges in moving into health professions and teaching.

The grant calls for GCRF have identified “inclusive and equitable quality education” as a priority theme. STEM education can enable science knowledge for the other 7 priority themes and this project addresses an intersection with the Sustainable Cities and Communities theme, presenting a community-focused approach to STEM education that develops capacity for scientifically informed responses to local development challenges (e.g. related to health, clean water supply, energy efficient cooking, small scale agriculture).