In this day and age, parents need to stop thinking the STEM (Science, Technology, Engineering, and Math) field is for boys only. Our latest story about 12 Pinoy public high school students who wowed at the Olympics of science fairs in the U.S., where there were seven girls, shows there is most certainly a place for women in the STEM field.
In the U.S., its latest National Assessment of Educational Progress in Technology and Engineering Literacy (TEL) exam showed female eighth-grade students significantly performed better than their male peers.
The TEL exam, administered by the National Center for Education Statistics (NCES), measures whether students know how to apply technology and engineering skills and concepts to real-life situations, says the NCES website. It is designed to assess three areas of technology and engineering experience both inside and outside the classroom: technology and society, design and systems, and information and communication technology.
Administered every four years, the test uses a mix of multiple choice questions and scenario-based performance tasks meant to gauge the students’ skills not only in the technical aspect but even in working with others to solve real-life issues. The students are encouraged to come up with possible solutions to these problems.
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When the latest TEL was administered in 2018, 15,400 eighth-grade students from 600 public and private schools took the exam. In every category, girls outperformed the boys despite the fact that fewer girls were in technology and engineering classes than boys.
The results of the TEL showed significant gaps between girls’ and boys’ scores. The gaps were notably large in the categories “information and communications technology” and “communicating and collaborating.”
“The girls have done extremely well in this assessment,” Peggy Carr, associate commissioner for assessment at the NCES, toldA Mighty Girl. “Girls are outperforming boys whether they take a class or not. And when girls take a course, they also score higher.”
Girls are still discouraged from going into the STEM field
Though the female students’ performance on the 2018 TEL is certainly encouraging, A Mighty Girlpoints out that most girls still tend to be discouraged from pursuing fields relating to technology and engineering as potential careers, compared to boys, who are usually considered more inclined towards those subjects. In fact, another finding of the test was that only 53% of female students had taken at least one class related to technology and engineering, compared to 61% of boys.
Kirby Harder, an engineering teacher at a high school in Ohio, U.S.A., shared he even had to personally encourage his female students, including a young lady who now serves as team captain of the school’s Lady Engineers Plus Two Team, to join his class.
“Girls are just as good at engineering as boys. They often take their time to think through a problem, whereas boys often rush through and make a mistake,” Harder toldA Mighty Girl.
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With the results of the TEL, school officials are being urged to extend the opportunity to participate in STEM-related subjects and activities to not only boys but even girls. This is important not just because it will help reduce the gender gap in the STEM field, but also because subjects related to this field can hone various skills such as resilience, logical thinking, problem-solving, and cooperation, which students will benefit from in the long run.
“The message to [school] administrators is we need to encourage girls to take more of these technology and engineering courses,” Carr toldEdWeek. “If students take at least one of those courses, they do better.”