The Southeast Asian Ministers of Education Regional Centre for STEM Education (SEAMEO STEM-ED) hosted the "Regional Synergy: Cultivating the What Works Network for Strengthening STEM Education in Southeast Asia" at Centara Grand, Bangkok, Thailand, on January 17, 2024. This event showcased compelling results from three flagship programmes of SEAMEO STEM-ED, generously supported by Chevron Corporation.
Held in parallel with STEM Synergy for Transforming the Future of Education, the event highlighted SEAMEO STEM-ED’s core initiatives, each scrutinizing programme effectiveness, expansion strategies, and sustainability outlook. The featured programmes were the Professional Academy (Empowering Educators for STEM Excellence), which is geared towards enhancing educators' skills for STEM excellence; Using Picture Books to Enhance Critical Thinking and Meaningful Reading (Unlocking the World of Literacy and Critical Thinking), focused on promoting literacy and critical thinking skills; and STEM Career Academies (Shaping the Future of STEM Careers), a programme designed to prepare students for future STEM careers.
Emphasizing the critical role of research, advocacy for policymaking, and programme development as the pillars of SEAMEO STEM-ED, Dr Krtisachai Somsaman, the Centre Director, highlighted, "Organizing the STEM Synergy event embodies the success of our programmes. We focus on researching and adapting global STEM education, tailoring it to meet diverse societal needs in Thailand and Southeast Asia."
Illustrating the profound impact of SEAMEO STEM-ED’s research, Programme Director Dr Kessara Amornvuthivorn emphasized how it elevates the capabilities of educational institutions in Southeast Asia. The implementation of widely recognized and effective STEM education policies and practices fosters an environment of excellence. Additionally, the research cultivates a vibrant community among educators and stakeholders in the region, encouraging the exchange of evidence-based practices to champion and advance the quality of STEM education.
Professional Academy found to improve instructional teaching practices
In the course of the first session, Dr Krittaphat Wongma, a distinguished faculty member from the Department of Science (Faculty of Education) at Sakon Nakhon Rajabhat University, presented the inaugural theme of the Professional Academy. This initiative, characterized by its collaborative efforts with esteemed academic institutions, aims to co-create and establish succinct courses or curriculum modules.
Dr Wongma, an integral member of the research team, highlighted the programme's significant impact, particularly its outreach to three prominent Thai universities—Thaksin University, Khon Kaen University, and Chiang Mai Rajabhat University. A total of 94 teachers and 37 master teachers, distinguished educators recognized for their exceptional proficiency and leadership roles within the educational community, have enrolled and greatly benefited from this pioneering programme.
At the core of the programme's design is its strategic positioning as a focal point of authority, closely aligned with the Office of the Basic Education Commission (OBEC) and local government agencies. Functioning as a hub for registered school leaders and supervisory teachers, the initiative facilitates an environment conducive to the enhancement of teaching practices. Dr Wongma elaborated on the programme's approach, termed "Ladders for Advancing in STEM Professional Development," which spans from the introduction of STEM education to the seamless integration and development of STEM learning experiences in classrooms and curricula.
The effectiveness of the programme was rigorously assessed using the STEM Classroom Observation Tool (STEM COT), a comprehensive framework designed to evaluate various aspects of teaching and learning in STEM subjects. Results illustrated notable enhancements in the STEM classroom atmosphere, interaction, lesson design, teaching practices, and the integration of STEM content and application. Notably, 98 teachers demonstrated an enhanced ability to formulate more effective strategies to engage students, while over 80 percent of the 1,000 students reported an improved capacity to tackle challenges in Mathematics and Science.
Picture Book Programme was found to be instrumental in nurturing learning atmospheres and instilling a passion for reading
Following the academy programme, the initiative "Using Picture Books to Enhance Critical Thinking and Meaningful Reading" unfolded with the leadership of Dr Ruj Luecha and Dr Nantida Nilayon, faculty members from Srinakharinwirot University (SWU), guiding policymakers, educators, and businesses on a research journey.
The project enlisted the expertise of Ms. Katherine Montgomery, the Education in Emergencies Director at Global Initiatives for Columbia University’s Teachers College Reading and Writing Project. Collaborating with Thai researchers, they designed a framework for the programme, incorporating 'thinking literally,' 'interpretively,' and 'critically' based on Bloom's taxonomy. Ms. Montgomery conducted training for 32 teachers from 16 pilot schools, focusing on utilizing picture books and practical reading strategies for students in grades 1-4.
Dr Luecha then conducted a ten-week course, providing students with the opportunity to interpret picture book stories, engage in open discussions on contingent meanings, and express opinions on character alterations. During this period, students reflected on five key takeaways: enjoyable experiences, joyful reading, critical thinking, applicability in daily life, and articulation of reading, writing, and vocabulary skills.
The success story unfolds through engaging training workshops and a vibrant exchange of knowledge within the professional learning community, fostering seamless integration of effective reading strategies among teachers. Project staff, including seasoned trainers, provided invaluable support through uplifting school visits, instilling confidence in utilizing read-aloud techniques, thinking out loud, crafting timelines, and employing thought-provoking questioning techniques.
Looking ahead to the expansion plan and sustainability outlook, the handbook crafted under this project is being prepared for dissemination to Southeast Asian educators through engaging lecture series webinars slated for the coming year. Additionally, the university network envisions raising funds to propel the expansion of this impactful programme model.
STEM Career Academies nurtured students' awareness of STEM career opportunities
The concluding topic of the session delved into the STEM Career Academies programme, evolving into a dynamic narrative that centered on piloting the Career Academies model and fostering awareness of STEM careers. The initiative embarked on a journey to prepare secondary school students for the dynamic world of work through an immersive career programme, aiming not only to familiarize them with professional working environments but also to ignite a passion for their future careers, cultivating essential occupational knowledge and skills.
Dr Wanploy Jinagool from the University of Technology, a valuable member of the research team, summarized that over the course of three transformative years, the project harmonized with 17 key partners, coordinating 14 Career Academies training courses and three inspirational events. This symphony of collaboration reached an audience of 1,050 direct beneficiaries and 3,160 indirect beneficiaries, comprising a diverse ensemble of students and teachers. The impact extended beyond mere numbers, with more than 33% of engaged students discovering enticing job opportunities, while the remaining 67% continued their journey of growth through post-secondary education. This project, akin to a melody of possibilities, unfolded as a compelling testament to the transformative power of STEM education.
As each programme reached its conclusion, they cast their gaze toward future expansion and institutionalization. Culminating in a joyful celebration, the project marks the conclusion of its journey at the "STEM Synergy for Transforming the Future of Education" event. It leaves behind an indelible legacy of innovation, empowerment, and excellence in STEM education across the region, aspiring to pave the way for a prosperous future.
Watch full event here.
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