New Fellowship program launches to promote STEM education in Africa

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Supporting the promotion of science, technology, engineering, and math (STEM) fields are among the most critical. With a high percentage of young persons among their populations, Africa and Latin America, in particular, have significant potential to benefit from advancements in STEM. However, according to the African Development Bank, less than 25% of African higher education students pursue a career in STEM, and both regions struggle to provide quality STEM education at scale.

PhET Fellowship program, an initiative of  PhET Interactive Simulations, a University of Colorado Boulder project, under the PhET Global initiative, supported by the Yidan Prize Foundation as part of the prize project activities of 2020 Laureate Professor Carl Wieman, is welcoming 32 Fellows to support the promotion of STEM subjects in schools and universities across Africa and Latin America.

According to Professor Carl Wieman, founder of PhET Interactive Simulations, and a Yidan Prize and Nobel Prize laureate: “Through this Fellowship program, we are nurturing a pool of local talent  to advocate for a scientific approach to teaching maths and science. We especially want the most marginalized students to benefit from high-quality STEM education, so that they are better prepared to face the challenges of tomorrow.”

PhET has recruited 32 Fellows—15 from Africa, and 17 from Latin America—who are teacher leaders in secondary or tertiary education, to promote robust teacher communities and advance students’ access to quality STEM education, reaching at least 1,600 teachers across the two continents. In Africa, Fellows originate from Botswana, Ethiopia, Ghana, Kenya, Malawi, Namibia, Nigeria, Rwanda, South Africa, The Gambia, Uganda, and Zambia. In addition to working in their own communities, these Fellows will work with each other across the region and the globe.

Together, they will accelerate the uptake of research-based math and science teaching and learning approaches through PhET simulations, build a community of local STEM experts, and reach thousands of students—giving rise to future generations of STEM professionals.

PhET Interactive Simulations provides free access to a collection of over 150 engaging, game-like computer simulations to support STEM learning online, or offline in 101 languages, including Amharic, Arabic, Chichewa, Dutch, French, German, Hausa, Igbo, Kinyarwanda, Portuguese, Sotho, Spanish, Swahili, Tswana, Twi, and Yoruba.

The PhET Fellowship will support each participating individual’s pedagogical and leadership growth for 18 months. The program will take place in two phases—with 80+ hours of professional learning to build skills and knowledge of PhET resources, and 70+ hours of professional leadership practice to support teachers’ use of PhET simulations across their regions.

Edward Ma, Secretary-General of the Yidan Prize Foundation, said: “Carl and the PhET team have been creating new possibilities through digital STEM education for two decades. They apply the science of learning to equip learners around the world with skills to think like a scientist. The Yidan Prize Foundation is very proud to support PhET’s new Fellowship program. We hope that more schools and teachers will see the value of engaging learners through research-based STEM education, and accelerate its adoption across Africa and Latin America.”

These Fellows will join PhET’s upcoming Africa Share and Discuss webinar on 18 May 2022 to share insights on how to support students’ motivation and interest in STEM education, and effectively incorporate PhET simulations in classes.