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Is CXC shaping or misshaping STEM education?

Published:Monday | May 27, 2024 | 12:06 AM


​The recent decision by the Caribbean Examinations Council (CXC) to discontinue certain subjects due to low enrolment and student engagement has sparked significant concern among educators and stakeholders throughout the region. While it is understandable that resource allocation is a crucial factor for educational bodies, this decision appears myopic, neglecting the broader implications for STEM (science, technology, engineering, and mathematics) education and the future workforce of the Caribbean.

The global economy is increasingly driven by technological innovation and scientific research, areas in which the Caribbean region needs to significantly improve to remain competitive. Subjects like mechanical engineering, electrical technology, and green engineering are foundational to developing the competencies required in these fields. By discontinuing these subjects, CXC risks exacerbating the existing skills gap. Instead of eliminating them, efforts should be made to enhance the attractiveness and accessibility of these subjects. This could involve integrating more practical applications and real-world problem-solving into the curriculum, thereby making the subjects more engaging and relevant to students’ futures.

Discontinuing STEM subjects due to low enrolment might save costs in the short term but will likely incur greater economic costs in the long term. The region may find itself increasingly reliant on foreign expertise and technology, which could stymie local innovation and self-sufficiency.

CXC’s mission is to provide the Caribbean with examinations of high quality that will meet the educational standards of the region and the world. This mission includes ensuring that the educational offerings are broad and inclusive, catering to the diverse interests and potential career paths of all students. By narrowing the subject offerings, CXC risks undermining this mission and failing to meet the comprehensive educational needs of the region.

Instead of discontinuing subjects with low enrolment, CXC should consider innovative strategies to boost student engagement and interest in these critical areas. This could involve:

1. Providing teachers with the resources and professional development needed to effectively teach and inspire students in these subjects.

2. Making the curriculum more engaging by incorporating more hands-on projects, industry partnerships, and real-world applications.

3. Raising awareness among students and parents about the importance and opportunities associated with STEM education.

4. Offering scholarships and incentives for students who choose to study these subjects.

By taking a more holistic approach, CXC can help bridge the skills gap and ensure that Caribbean students are well-prepared to meet the challenges and opportunities of the 21st century.