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Women's Education in Science Technology and Mathematics (STM) Challenges for National Development

Article excerpt

The paper presents Science, Technology and Mathematics (STM) as the bedrock of the development of any nation. It emphasizes the role of women in national development. To achieve meaningful advancement in national development, the paper emphasizes the need to give priority to the education of women in STM. It recommended that deliberate efforts be made to vary the present University Matriculation Examination (UME) cut off score to favour female in admitting them into tertiary institutions in Science, Technology and Mathematics (STM) and related courses.

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In the recent past, emphasis in Nigeria education has shifted to educating its citizens in Science, Technology and Mathematics (STM).This mode was reflected in the National policy on Education when it recommended an enrolment ratio of 60:40 in favour of STM and related courses in the tertiary institutions (Federal Republic of Nigeria (FRN), 2004). This guideline became necessary with a view to boost manpower development and researches in these professions.

The role of STM in the development of a nation cannot be over emphasized. Imarhiagbe (1996) stated that if anything is important to any country in solving its problems, it is science, technology and mathematics. According to him, STM is the base for the overall development of a nation, the instrument, the orderly and ethical behaviour of its citizens. The place of STM in the development of any nation was echoed earlier by Professor Fafunwa in his keynote address to the 31st annual conference of the Science Teachers' Association of Nigeria (STAN) when he stated that we cannot hope to be self-reliant with other people's science and technology. If we must develop and be self-reliant, we must develop our own science and technology (Fafunwa, 1990). What then is National development?

National Development refers to the ability to harness all the available resources, human, material or economic, to bring out the potentials of a nation. It may also imply the ability to flow along with other nations in terms of effective management and utilization of current development in science and technology. According to Abbe and Momodu (cited in Aguele and Uhumuavbi, 2003:4), development means "bringing a nation to an advance or a highly organized state, that is utilizing all the human and material potentials of a nation to bring about growth or advancement". Development has to do with improvement in human well-being, elimination of hunger and poverty and gainful and productive employment for all the citizens of a nation. Women constitute a large proportion of the citizens of any Nation. In Nigeria and most parts of Africa, women have been known to be marginalized on issues that borders on Science, Technology and Mathematics (STM) education and National development. This paper therefore seeks to address the issue of women and national development, status of women in science, technology and mathematics (STM) education and the challenges to national development.

Women and National Development

Women, in the recent past have become a serious factor of recognition in nation building. Their important contributions to countries' national economies and international trade stand out clearly and cannot be overemphasized. According to Commonwealth (1999a), women now constitute about one-third of all industrial sector of the labour force in export processing activities and service sectors such as banking and tourism. There are a number of international agreements/ mandates that bear upon the issue of gender equality and development. One of such is the Beijing Platform for Action on Women. The 1995 Fourth World Conference on Women in Beijing provided a renewed global commitment to achieving gender equality and quality on national policy programmes. The final clause of the Beijing Declaration according to Commonwealth (2000:15) states "we hereby adopt and commit ourselves as government to implement the platform for Action, ensuring that a gender perspective is reflected in all our policies and programmes". …