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ATAG To Gov’t: Adding Arts To STEM Education Will Help Propel Creativity In Students

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A group calling itself the Art Teachers’ Association of Ghana(ATAG), wants the government to reconsider introducing STEAM education instead of STEM education, which is being facilitated by the Education Ministry.

Science, Technology, Engineering, and Mathematics (STEM) education has become one very important areas the government wants to focus on to enhance the knowledge of Ghanaian students in these subject areas and also help them become more critical thinkers, innovators and help them compete in the developing economic market.

But the group says adding Arts will complete the agenda.

The group goes on to lament that they were not consulted for their inputs during the stakeholder dialogue before the implementation of STEM education.

They say no visual artist was invited to the first meeting that was held on August 10, 2021, in Accra by the Ministry. Instead, the presenters were all from Science, Maths, Technology, and Engineering backgrounds.

 

 

Dr. Osuanyi Quaicoo Essel, National President of the Association and lecturer of Fashion and Textiles Education unit in the Department of Art Education of the University of Education, Winneba, says it is a good thing that the Ministry is going on this tangent, but the addition of Arts will enable the ordinary Ghanaian student to bring to the fore some ideas they have and help with innovations and inventions just like other countries like China and Singapore have done.

“If we look at best practices globally in advanced countries, countries where they are creating new products, innovative ones and inventing things, the pathways they are going is using STEAM education, not STEM.

“It is a good thing for the Ministry to introduce STEM education, but when we don’t add the arts, we will be lagging behind. The best way is to add the Arts, the Creative Arts, that is how we can move forward.”

Speaking on what the addition of the Art will bring, he said the scientific ideas will become materialised.

“When we add the arts, we will be able to create physical objects. For instance, if one has a scientific idea, say robotics, we have to visualize it by creating the model for that. It is the visual artists who create the model, the physicality.”

To the government, they advise that the Arts be included in the STEM education dream to be at per with the countries that are already there and have even gone ahead to introduce Science, Technology, Robotics, Engineering, Arts, and Mathematics (STREAM).

 

 

The Art Teachers’ Association of Ghana (ATAG), a registered professional body at the forefront of Arts education delivery in Ghana, with membership comprising of seasoned Art Educators at both pre-tertiary and tertiary levels of education in Ghana present our official position on the recent adoption and implementation of STEM (Science, Technology, Engineering and Mathematics) educational policy by the Ministry of Education and the National Teaching Council.

The National Teaching Council in collaboration with the Ministry of Education organised stakeholders meeting on August 10, 2021 in Accra on the theme ‘STEM Education in Ghana: What Ought to Happen’.We observed that the eminent scholars invited for the presentation on the said date were drawn from science, engineering and mathematics background just as the theme suggested. The incisive presentations from these scholars hammered on the aforementioned subject areas – Science, Technology, Engineering and Mathematics – as key in training the twenty-first century learner in Ghana.

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However, drawing cue from best practices of advanced and developing nations who are making giant strides in inventions and innovations points to the fact that those countries have prioritized certain fields of study we (in Ghana) have neglected in addition to Science, Technology and Mathematics. Based on best global practices, ATAG make its position clear on the continuous exclusion of Arts Education in the promotion of Science, Technology, Engineering and Mathematics (STEM) education in Ghanaian educational policies.

 

 

 

 

 

Read their full statement below:

 

 

 

POSITION STATEMENTS ON INTRODUCTION OF STEM (SCIENCE,
TECHNOLOGY, ENGINEERING AND MATHEMATICS) EDUCATION IN
GHANA

 

 


1. Introduction

 


The Art Teachers’ Association of Ghana (ATAG), a registered professional body at the forefront of Arts education delivery in Ghana, with membership comprising of seasoned Art Educators at both pretertiary and tertiary levels of education in Ghana present our official position on the recent adoption and implementation of STEM (Science,Technology, Engineering and Mathematics) educational policy by the Ministry of Education and the National Teaching Council.

 


The National Teaching Council in collaboration with the Ministry of Education organised stakeholders meeting on August 10, 2021 in Accra on the theme ‘STEM Education in Ghana: What Ought to Happen’. We observed that the eminent scholars invited for the presentation on the said date were drawn from science, engineering and mathematics background just as the theme suggested. The incisive presentations from these scholars hammered on the aforementioned subject areas Science, Technology, Engineering and Mathematics as key in training the twentyfirst century learner in Ghana.


However, drawing cue from best practices of advanced and developing nations who are making giant strides in inventions and innovations points to the fact that those countries have prioritized certain fields of study we (in Ghana) have neglected in addition to Science, Technology and Mathematics. Based on best global practices, ATAG make its position clear on the continuous exclusion of Arts Education in the promotion of Science, Technology, Engineering and Mathematics (STEM) education in Ghanaian educational policies.

 


2. Brief Historical Background of STEM Education in Ghana

 

Since the country attained independence in 1957, there have been efforts by different governments to promote Science and Mathematics education. At the beginning of the country’s formal school education system, it prioritized Science and Mathematics and later included Technology. The nation’s concentration, therefore, dwelled on Science, Technology and Mathematics which became known as STM. For over four decades of attempts at promoting the aforementioned fields of study in Ghana, the nation has not made any creative and innovative contributions to global basket of Science and Technology inventions. The resolve of the Ministry of Education to introduce STEM  (Science, Technology, Engineering and Mathematics) education is laudable. However, the exclusion of the ‘Arts’ in the said policy has serious implications and consequences on the success rate and holistic development of creative and inventive learners.

 

 

 


3. STEM Education in Ghana and Recommended Policy Alternative

 

In the continuous quest to accelerating national development, the educational systems of both developed and developing nations have over the years witnessed policy alternatives. In the case of Ghana, past and present governments have initiated many major policies to finetune the educational sector for the holistic development of learners. One of the newly introduced educational policies which is to become a core component of the Ghanaian education system is Science, Technology, Engineering and Mathematics (acronymised as STEM). The philosophy behind the STEM policy is based upon the idea that the study of Science, Technology, Engineering and Mathematics in schools could produce the best and innovative brains to become scientists, engineers and architects to drive national development. This notion of STEM education being the sole magic wand to producing capable workforce to drive the desired national development has made Ghana governments (past & present) and their supporting ministries and agencies to continually allocate
more resources for the advancement of STEM education in the country. Based on the historical trajectory and observation of the workable happenings in advanced countries, the position of the Art Teachers’ Association of Ghana on the exclusion of the Arts is as follows:

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1. The general observation is that the STEM education system does not produce the much-expected STEM-capable graduates let alone producing graduates with 21st century competencies outside STEM curriculum to address the changing developmental needs of economies across the world. It is so because, no country has ever developed in the absence of effective Creative Arts
education, for Science and Technology thrives in the presence of arts education. The fact remains that STEM curriculum is not a magic bullet for innovation but rather, a focus on STEAM which includes that Arts integrates design principles, concepts, techniques, visual thinking, and creative problem-solving skills in learners. Application of this is evidenced in countries that consider a STEAM curriculum instead of STEM.

 


2. Advanced countries such as China, USA, UK, France, Malaysia and Singapore have rigorously shifted from STEM (Science, Technology, Engineering and Mathematics) to STEAM (Science, Technology, Engineering, Arts and Mathematics) and or STREAM curriculum because they acknowledged that the pursuance of science, technology, engineering and mathematics education are enablers since the resultant must be a product, which is mostly physical manifestation of artificial intelligence. For this reason, they do not downplay the Arts, which has to do with product design and development.

STREAM suggest inclusion of ‘Robotics’ to ‘Science, Technology, Engineering, Arts and Mathematics.’

3. Studies have revealed that for a true innovative education, the inclusion of the Arts extend students’ critical thinking skills and provide multiple lenses through which they explore the world around. It is based on the justifiable impact of Arts on students’ learning that led to the modification of the STEM policy to STEAM and STREAM respectively with the ‘A’ in both instances representing the Arts and ‘R’, Robotics or Reading. The introduction of the ‘Arts’ into the prioritised disciplines demonstrates the dependency of the disciplines – Science, Technology, Engineering and Mathematics on Arts “because no great products were ever created without artistic sensibilities” (Stephen, 2015, p.2). Due to this, the world’s much talked about technologically advanced nations such as China, United States of America, Singapore, Korea and others have adopted and promoted STEAM or STREAM curricular which is worthy of Ghana’s emulation as they
produce graduates with high degree of inventiveness, innovativeness and creativity.

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The people of China are grasping all the expertise they could concerning STEAMeducation because they believe STEAM education has the tendency to “allow the labels of the future to say “invented in China” rather than “made in China.” It’s a cash cow, having your citizenry trained via STEAM because it makes students more creative, innovative, inventive and more empathetic.

 


4. Studies have shown that students in STEAM classrooms tend to outperform their counterparts in STEM-only establishments. This makes the STEAM the recommended pathway for the holistic
education of the Ghanaian learner.

 

 


3. Conclusions
In the quest for a robust educational policy that would produce the best and innovative brains to become scientists, engineers, product designers and architects to drive the development of Ghana, the Art Teachers’ Association of Ghana calls for a paradigm shift from the current focus on STEM policy to STEAM (Science, Technology, Engineering, Arts and Mathematics) or STREAM (Science, Technology, Robotics / Reading, Engineering, Arts and Mathematics) policy for the entire pre-tertiary and selected tertiary school levels to engender creative, innovative and inventive learners for accelerated national development. STEAM education is known to foster pure innovation that comes with team work and critical thinking skills of scientist or technologist with that of an artist or designer. It enhances interdisciplinary learning for better results.  With STEAM or STREAM education, students are presented with a more
authentic vision of science in Arts and the Arts in science. Therefore, it is our position that the education ministry should reconsider its pursuit of STEM policy in Ghanaian educational curriculum and urgently prioritise STEAM that incorporates Arts Education as the robust vehicle that could realistically and forcefully drive creativity and innovation in learners. It is not enough to have engineeringbased tertiary institutions to organise preuniversity entry programmes for Visual Arts students to offer them the opportunity to do Engineering. If per the creative doings of the Visual Arts students, the nation finds them capable of perusing engineering courses as part of their training in Visual Arts, why not introducing STEAM instead of STEM. The solution lies in running STEAM policy to train them from early stages of their education through to tertiary.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

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