The prestigious 16th annual Southern African Association of Science and Technology Centres (SAASTEC) conference is being hosted by the UDDIs R30 million Nelson Mandela Bay Science and Technology Centre.
“The South African schooling system should begin to place serious emphasis on mainstream mathematics education from primary to secondary level if we are to collectively address pressing science, technology, engineering and mathematics education challenges.”
Speaking on the first day of the prestigious 16th annual Southern African Association of Science and Technology Centres (SAASTEC) conference currently being held in Uitenhage at the Nelson Mandela Bay Science and Technology Centre, Uitenhage-Despatch Development Initiative (UDDI) chief executive officer Patricia Dlamini says the education system has to place significant focus on mainstream mathematics and to create a culture of science as a livelihood.
“The importance of instilling a science, mathematics and technology culture from the primary school level cannot be understated. Creative thinking and innovation comes out at a very young age. You don’t need hi-tech facilities to introduce children to science, technology, engineering and mathematics.
“A culture of science and mathematics encourages innovation and creating an environment for playing and experimentation. When UDDI opened the R30 million Nelson Mandela Bay Science and Technology Centre in March 2013 in the heart of Uitenhage, the goal was to introduce a dedicated focus on building enthusiasm and an affinity for science, technology and mathematics through fun and interactive engagements. The centre is one of UDDIs three focus areas which include education, training and skills development, enterprise development and town regeneration,” says Dlamini.
Chairman of the Board of SAASTEC and chief operating officer of the Sci-Bono Discovery Centre in Johannesburg Michael Peter says improving the quality of schooling remains the greatest challenge in science, technology, engineering and mathematics education.
“Understanding the basic curriculum, enabling teachers to deliver the basic curriculum and enabling learners to learn how to learn, remains a s challenge. This means science and mathematics education should not be about just acquiring knowledge and repeating facts, learners need a skills set that should enable them to compete in the 21st century.
“Deficiencies in the science and maths system are in part historic and they are also in another sense a consequence of us not ensuring our children’s education is the best we can give them. SAASTECs remedy is to facilitate a culture of learning these subjects in a way that will generate the talent and skills that we need if we are to compete in the global village,” Peter says.
Peter says the challenges we face today around the provision of water, food, development of homes, environmental, energy and technological challenges will all be addressed by learners that we develop today.
“We believe science and technology centres are an integral part of that solution. UDDIs Nelson Mandela Bay Science and Technology Centre will increasingly become the flagship science and technology centre of the Eastern Cape. It holds great potential and we fully understand its potential to make a huge difference in the Eastern Cape,” explains Peter.
Science centres in South Africa were introduced about 20 years ago in universities to inspire learners around science and technology education. The SAASTEC conference is held to share solutions, ideas, debate and to draft solutions that will address challenges of the next year.
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