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Science

Improving the pathway from school to STEM careers for girls and women

Eliana Rubiano-Matulevich's picture

The launch of the Human Capital Project has galvanized global action to close human capital gaps, and has highlighted the importance of investments in the knowledge, skills, and health that people accumulate throughout their lives, to realize their potential as productive members of society.

Improving both the quantity and quality of education is pivotal to empowering young people to fulfill their potential. Science, Technology, Engineering, and Mathematics (STEM) education is critical not only for fulfilling the needs of the future workforce, but also for producing researchers and innovators who can help to solve intractable challenges.

The underrepresentation of women and girls in STEM gets a lot of attention, but the data on access to, and quality of, education shows that the story is more nuanced.

At primary school level globally, there is gender parity in both enrollment and completion–a remarkable achievement of recent times. Gender gaps emerge in a number of low-income countries, mostly in Sub-Saharan Africa, and in some Latin American countries there are ‘reverse’ gender gaps (with boys less likely to attend or complete primary school). Overall, gender gaps (where they exist) are modest in comparison to the gaps between rich and low-income countries.

When it comes to academic performance, girls often do as well as, or better than, boys in science and mathematics.

In primary schools, there are no gender differences in science achievement in more than half of the 47 countries where performance is measured (Figure 1). Girls score higher than boys in 26 percent of the countries. The difference in achievement is almost three-times higher when girls score more than boys compared to when boys score more than girls. Results for mathematics achievement are similar. There are no gender differences in about half of the countries with data, but boys score better than girls in 37 percent of the countries.

Figure 1: Primary-school girls perform as well as boys in science and mathematics

Source: TIMSS 2015 Assessment Frameworks. Data for 4th graders in 47 countries. Box plots show the first quartile, median and third quartile of the test scores. The whiskers correspond to the minimum and maximum scores. Outliers are represented by a dot.

#TechWomenAfrica: Female role models lead the way in Sub-Saharan Africa’s digital transformation

Alicia Hammond's picture



It’s often said that you cannot be what you cannot see. The truth of this adage is becoming clear especially in Science, Technology, Engineering and Math (STEM) careers, where a lack of female role models is increasingly cited as a key driver of women’s underrepresentation in these fields. But a new generation of female role models is emerging in technology, and some hope that their increased visibility will help confront gender stereotypes that often discourage young women from pursuing the careers of the future.

Are girls smarter than boys?

Malek Abu-Jawdeh's picture

Parents are 2.5 times more likely to google “Is my son gifted?” than “Is my daughter gifted?” A gap like this—in perceptions and expectations—is not new.  Myths about ‘gendered’ learning gaps have persisted since at least the Victorian era. Could these be true?


 

Building a regional solution to bridge Eastern and Southern Africa’s science and technology gap

Xiaonan Cao's picture
 Sarah Farhat/World Bank


Like much of Sub-Saharan Africa, the Eastern and Southern Africa region has seen significant economic growth in recent years, largely relying on agriculture and extractives. However, it hasn’t been able to keep up with the skilled labor demanded by the region’s required economic transformation for further growth. Surveys reveal that firms in the region now face acute challenges in developing research and development (R&D) capacity and filling technical and managerial positions – not just due to inadequate production of college graduates that have been rising over the years, but also due to low quality and relevance of current education and training at the tertiary level.

Women in science: Africa needs more role models

Madiha Waris Qureshi's picture
There is inadequate encouragement of girls to pursue math and science in school. (Photo: Dominic Chavez/World Bank)

UNESCO estimates that barely 30 percent of Africa’s women pursue research in science and engineering fields. I am inspired by one of them – a woman who is among the few female PhDs in the West African nation of Togo, and is helping more girls in her country enroll into science and technology fields.

Weekly wire: The global forum

Roxanne Bauer's picture
World of NewsThese are some of the views and reports relevant to our readers that caught our attention this week.
 

Projecting progress: Reaching the SDGs by 2030
Overseas Development Institute
This month the United Nations launches the Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs), a global plan to spur action across the world on areas of critical importance to humanity. With 17 goals and 169 targets, the SDGs replace the Millennium Development Goals (MDGs), which end this year. The SDGs will significantly shape development efforts for the coming 15 years. But are they really achievable? And what can we do to improve our chances of success? Our SDG Scorecard 2030 is the first real attempt to project where the world will be in 2030 across the SDG agenda.

The Politics of Media Development: The Importance of Engaging Government and Civil Society
Center for International Media Assistance
In the field of media development, the public sector is often viewed as a barrier to the development of independent and sustainable media. Although governments do frequently pervert and capture media sectors in countries around the globe, the enabling conditions under which media can achieve and maintain independence are nevertheless reliant on institutions of government. Therefore the media development community must rethink its approaches to public sector engagement in efforts to improve the environment for media systems in emerging and fragile democracies. This paper outlines the key role of political support, the need for more nuanced understanding of political context, and how donors and implementers can more effectively engage drivers of change in the public sector to build support for media and media development work.

Women and girls are the answer to innovation in Africa

Maleele Choongo's picture
4 Will You Take On... Take On Extreme Poverty 2:11 / 2:11 Poverty and Hardship in the PacificWorld Bank1:02:02 Rwanda: A Model for Building Strong Safety NetsWorld Bank4:32 My New Life: Primary Education for All in IndiaWorld Bank4:39 Applis mobiles pour
Women in Senegal traditionally have few chances to acquire computer or programming skills. A young woman from Dakar has set out to change that. Binta Coudy De has created a tech hub, Jjiguene Tech Hub, that trains young women in computer and programming skills, preparing them for a career in the high-tech sector.

According the World Bank’s latest report on the state of Science, Technology, Engineering, and Mathematics (STEM) research in Africa, African researchers produce only 1 percent of the world’s research.

As shown in this video, unlocking the talent of women and girls could improve the quality and quantity of scientific research and tech innovation in Africa.

Who will add value in Africa? Who will cure? Who will build?

Andreas Blom's picture

 Dasan Bobo/World Bank​From my seat as an Education economist at the World Bank, I go through a number of strategies from countries and sectors in Africa outlining how best to achieve economic growth and development. I am repeatedly struck by a key question: Who will do it? Who will add value to African exports? Who will build? Who will invent? Who will cure? The answer is, of course, that graduates from African universities and training institutions should do it. But the problem is one of numbers and quality—there are simply not enough graduates in science, technology, engineering and math (STEM), and programs are of uneven quality.
 

Science, Technology and Innovation in Agriculture is Pivotal for Africa’s Overdue Transformation

John Kofi Agyekum Kufuor's picture
The persistence of poverty and food insecurity on the African continent is a major developmental challenge, both for Africans and the international development community. 
 
History shows that investments in agriculture can be a catalytic force in the fight against hunger, poverty and malnutrition and a well-performing farm economy can be an instrument for achieving sustained structural economic transformation. Agricultural growth was the precursor to industrial growth in Europe and, more recently through the Green Revolution, in large parts of Asia and Latin America.  The Green Revolution bypassed Africa.

When I was elected President of the Republic of Ghana in 2000, agriculture was a mainstay of the nation’s economy, accounting for 35% of its GDP, 55% of employment and 75% of export revenues. But it was a lagging, orphan sector, suffering from decades of neglect and lack of investment. Ghana’s agriculture had sadly changed little from the kind practiced generations ago.  Farmers were still eking out a living, tilling the land by hand, much like their ancestors.  
 
The World Bank’s new Agriculture Global Practice hosted President Kufuor and his colleagues from the Forum for Agricultural Research in Africa (FARA).  Here, Yemi Akinbamijo, Executive Director, argues that science has unbounded potential to contribute to Africa’s agricultural transformation for the benefit of all Africans and the environment.
 
Photo credit: A’Melody Lee


Quote of the Week: Mary Midgley

Sina Odugbemi's picture

"There is this increasing faith that physical science is the answer to all our terrible questions. I want to fight against the whole idea that it is where you go to for enlightenment.”

- Mary Midgley, an English moral philosopher, who strongly opposes reductionism and scientism and any attempts to make science a substitute for the humanities. She is well-known for her work on science, ethics and animal rights.


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