STEM Guyana seeks private sector help to intensify Grade Six Math intervention

Against the backdrop of what its Administrator says has been a response in “impressive numbers” to the rollout in February of the Mathematics Application designed to support an emergency initiative aimed at improving the Grade Six examination results, STEM Guyana is seeking the support of the local business community to expand and intensify the Mathematics programme as well as apply the initiative to other subject areas at the Grade Six level.

STEM Guyana Administrator Karen Abrams told Stabroek Business from her Atlanta, Georgia location earlier this week that the initiative launched here two weeks ago in collaboration with the Office of First Lady Sandra Granger “continues to pick up steam.” The first seven days of the release resulted in 3,000 app installs by students from nearly 400 schools representing every region of Guyana.  “We are more than moderately encouraged by the response of the school community as a whole and our team is working diligently to identify and fix bugs and capacity issues and to roll-out software updates to make the app more user-friendly,” Abrams said.

The US-based Guyanese who, along with her three children has been the driving force behind the STEM Guyana project said, however, that the funding requirements would require that both the public and private sectors “pitch in” to make it work. “We believe that what we are doing is well worth the support of the private sector. It will amount to investment in an initiative which, not too far down the road, will pay back the business community significantly,” Abrams said.

STEM Guyana Administrator Karen Abrams

“Version Nine of the Android app has been recently updated to the app store and this version makes the top 25 app usage ratings list of schools, more accurate. It also enables parents to now view exactly which papers and versions students have been working on, how many questions and points they’re earning and how much time it takes them complete the exams. The new update also allows students to take a 40-question examination that closely replicates what they will face in April 2017,” Abrams said. Describing app development as a dynamic process, Abrams said that the STEM Guyana development team “will continue to upgrade and update the app as we identify issues.”

Meanwhile, beginning in May this year, the development team will seek to collaborate with the Ministry of Education’s National Centre for Education Research and Development and other local agencies to identify 100 students in five schools across the country whose Grade Six Math preparation performance, will be monitored for 11 months, via the use of the application.

Last month, President David Granger committed to meeting the cost of acquiring the tablets personal computers that will be assigned to the students involved in the project. Abrams said that STEM Guyana continues to look for sponsors to match the President’s commitment to technology education. “It is no secret that there are costs associated with the rollout of this initiative and we are hoping that the local private sector would be willing to help finance those costs. Beginning almost immediately I will be communicating with private sector umbrella organizations and individual businesses including technology service providers in Guyana to get what support we can for the project,” Abrams said.

Meanwhile, according to Abrams, an initiative is already “in the works” to collaborate with the Ministry of Public Telecommunications, the Office of The First Lady and the Ministry of Education to roll out at least one technology event every month of 2017. “Our goal is to inspire more participants in the technology industry in Guyana. We want young people to identify problems around them and then Google and collaborate their way to the implementation of new ideas and solutions using technology. We want to inspire a generation of young people who are unafraid to venture into the unknown, young people who are hungry to learn and who have no fear of failing and then trying again and again,” Abrams said.

While its primary immediate preoccupation is with the further consolidation of its Mathematics initiative, Abrams said that STEM Guyana already has tentative plans to add Science, Social Studies and English to the Grade 6 application and to create an application for fourth graders. “We also intend to create a few paid apps which will allow us to fund our social good projects on the ground in Guyana,” Abrams said.

The STEM Guyana lead initiator also said that having noted the recent media publicity in Guyana afforded drones and their use, the team has tentative plans for a drone building, programming and piloting camp in the summer of 2017. “Drones are part of the technology with which Guyana needs to keep abreast. The future of Guyana will be powered by technology and the STEM Guyana team intends to inspire technology education across Guyana. We are determined to do the camp this summer as long as we are able to raise the necessary funds to do so. Here again, we will be looking to the private sector to support us,” Abrams said.

Businesses, business support organizations and other local institutions desirous of providing financial and other forms of practical support, including co-sponsorship for any of STEM Guyana’s technology products can contact stemguyana@gmail.com.

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