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7th GESF highlights importance of involving girls in stem education

Global Teacher Prize finalists, past and present, discuss how gender imbalance in STEM students can be redressed


Dubai:  Science, technology, engineering and Maths (STEM) subjects are severely unrepresented by girls, observed panelists a session at the seventh annual Global Education & Skills Forum (GESF 2019), a Varkey Foundation initiative, taking place at The Atlantis, The Palm, Dubai. At the discussion on ‘Getting girls into STEM’, Global Teacher Prize finalists Yasmin Ahmed, Dr Ken Silburn and Emma Russo gathered to discuss why the lack of representation in STEM education exists and what can be done to encourage females to study these subjects.




2015 Global Teacher Prize finalist, Yasmin Noorul Amin opened the debate by explaining that she has been teaching at a boy’s school for the past fifteen years, but that the attitude of boys to girls and their learning is a great contributing factor to changing stereotypes and gaining equal balance.


She stressed on the importance of changing family perceptions and encouraged teachers to educate parents on the range of job opportunities available to those who specialise in STEM subjects. She spoke extensively on the need for female teachers to be strong examples to male students in order to change their perceptions. Emma Russo, one of the Top 40 finalists for the prize this year, discussed constantly striving to ease the barriers faced by girls who want to study physics and engineering in higher education. To this end, she set up a London wide termly event for female students and their parents called “Girls in Physics” where students are encouraged to bring their parents and meet and discuss opportunities with female industry professionals. She also stressed the importance of educating parents to the importance of interesting girls in STEM subjects. “I set up “Girls in Physics” to spread education because it’s frustrating for me as a physicist and a teacher to see such a low number of women continuing these subjects at university.” Dr Ken Silburn, a 2017 finalist, spoke about his commitment to increasing the educational outcomes of science students across New South Wales in Australia. The headmaster pioneered a programme called iSTEM (invigorating Science, Technology, Engineering and Mathematics) which gave students from schools in his region the chance to participate in extracurricular science activities. He supported and encouraged participation from girls and documented them enjoying a huge variety of science related activities. All three speakers were united in the belief that educating parents on the value of STEM subjects for young women was of the utmost importance and would have a positive effect on redressing the imbalance. They were also agreed that boys needed to be better educated to accept and encourage female participation in what has largely been a male led genre. GESF 2019 this year is attended by five former Presidents and Prime Ministers and 40 Education Ministers. World leaders were joined by a new generation of change-makers, including grassroots activists, philanthropists, tech developers and many more, that are shaping the world with new voices, new ideas and new technologies. -Ends- 1. The Varkey Foundation believes every child deserves a vibrant, stimulating learning environment that awakens and supports their full potential. We believe nothing is more important to achieving this than the passion and quality of teachers. We founded the Global Teacher Prize to shine a spotlight on the incredible work teachers do all over the world and we continue to play a leading role in influencing education debates on the status of teachers around the world.  https://www.varkeyfoundation.org 2. The Top 50 shortlisted teachers were narrowed down to the final Top 10 teachers by a Prize Committee. The winner will then be chosen from these Top 10 finalists by the Global Teacher Prize Academy. The Prize Committee and the Academy look for evidence that applicants for the Varkey Foundation Global Teacher Prize meet the following criteria:  ·                     Employing effective instructional practices that are replicable and scalable to influence the quality of education globally. ·                     Employing innovative instructional practices that address the particular challenges of the school, community or country and which have shown sufficient evidence to suggest they could be effective in addressing such challenges in a new way.  ·                     Achieving demonstrable student learning outcomes in the classroom. ·                     Impact in the community beyond the classroom that provide unique and distinguished models of excellence for the teaching profession and others. ·                     Helping children become global citizens through providing them with a values-based education that equips them for a world where they will potentially live, work and socialise with people from many different nationalities, cultures and religions. ·                     Improving the teaching profession through helping to raise the bar of teaching, sharing best practice, and helping colleagues overcome any challenges they face in their school.  ·                     Teacher recognition from governments, national teaching organisations, head-teachers, colleagues, members of the wider community or pupils. 3. The Global Teacher Prize Academy includes prominent names such as Wendy Kopp, co-founder and CEO of Teach for All; Brett Wigdortz, founder of Teach First, James E Ryan, Dean and Professor, Harvard Graduate School of Education, United States, Jeffrey D. Sachs, world-renowned professor of economics and special advisor to the UN and Lewis Pugh, the only person to have completed a long distance swim in every ocean of the world. https://www.globalteacherprize.org/about-the-global-teacher-prize/the-judging-academy/ 4. The Global Teacher Prize winner will be paid the prize money in equal installments over ten years, and the Varkey Foundation will provide the winner with financial counseling. Without compromising their work in the classroom, the winner will be asked to serve as a global ambassador for the Varkey Foundation, attending public events and speaking in public forums about improving the prestige of the teaching profession. 5. The prize is open to currently working teachers who teach children that are in compulsory schooling, or are between the ages of five and eighteen. Teachers who teach children age 4+ in an Early Years government-recognised curriculum are also eligible, as are teachers who teach on a part-time basis, and teachers of online courses. Teachers must spend at least 10 hours per week teaching children and plan to remain in the profession for the next 5 years. It is open to teachers in every kind of school and, subject to local laws, in every country in the world. Applications for the 2019 prize opened on Wednesday 6 June 2018 and closed on 23 September 2018 with teachers able to apply in English, Mandarin, Arabic, French, Spanish, Portuguese and Russian. 6. PwC will be responsible for ensuring that the balloting process is fair and accurate.  Criminal record and other background checks will be conducted on the shortlisted candidates. Top ten finalists from Global Teacher Prize 2018 could not apply for Global Teacher Prize 2019. 7. For LIVE images: https://www.flickr.com/photos/gesf 8. The Global Teacher Prize is part of the Varkey Foundation’s long-standing commitment to improve the status of teachers.  In November 2013, the foundation published the Global Teacher Status Index, the first attempt to compare attitudes towards teachers in 21 countries.  The index found that there were significant differences between the status of teachers worldwide. The survey also found that in many countries, between a third and half of parents would “probably” or “definitely not” encourage their children to enter the teaching profession. In November 2018 the Varkey Foundation revisited the theme and widened its scope, polling over 40,000 people in 35 countries. The Global Teacher Status Index 2018 showed for the first time a direct link between teacher status and pupil performance as measured by PISA scores. Countries with higher teacher status are more likely to record higher PISA scores, the report demonstrated, showing high teacher status can lead to greater student outcomes in a country. The full Global Teacher Status Indexes can be found at: https://www.varkeyfoundation.org/teacherindex

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