“For example, Thailand will be the first country in Asia-Pacific to pilot a policy toolkit under Unesco’s global STEM and Advancement, or SAGA, project aimed at analysing the impact of policies on gender disparities in STEM, developing better indicators for evidence-based policy-making and building capacity to collect data on gender in STEM,” Dr Sophon Napathorn, vice-minister of education, told a Unesco forum in Bangkok yesterday.
The three-day event, which coincides with the release of the report “Cracking the Code: Girls’ Education in STEM”, is the first global Unesco forum focusing on the gender divide in STEM education, highlighting educational opportunities for girls and women as both a fundamental human right and a critical development issue.
“Progress to be meaningful must include every woman and man,” Unesco director-general Irina Bokova said during the forum’s opening ceremony. “This is about finding ways to reach every girl and boy, and give them a chance to achieve their dreams.”
While the forum and report are global in scope, including a broad survey of student performance in countries worldwide, Thailand’s own circumstances highlight the complexity of the situation.
Unesco’s latest statistics show that only 28 per cent of researchers worldwide are women – reflecting the systematic challenges facing girls and women from the earliest levels of primary schooling through to tertiary education.
However, in some respects, Thailand bucks that trend. According to a 2016 Unesco report, Thai girls have outperformed boys in mathematics, while more than half of students enrolled in science courses are female.
There are also fields where women are underrepresented, with only 23 per cent of professionals in engineering and construction being female. However, in STEM fields in general, women make an enormous contribution that must be capitalised upon to achieve future development goals.
“A gathering like this gives us an opportunity to not only share our successes in promoting STEM education for girls, but to learn about the experiences of others from around the world and see what might be applicable in our context,” Sophon said.
Published : August 28, 2017
By : The Nation