Understanding How the Girls to Pioneer Programme Affect Students’ Attitudes Towards STEM and Shape Their STEM-related Identities

Project Number
SUG 09/15 TTW

Project Duration
November 2015 - March 2018

Status
In-Progress

Abstract
The underrepresentation of women in STEM (science, technology, engineering, and mathematics) fields is a problem that plagues many places in the world. According to the U.S., Department of Commerce, Economics and Statistics Administration (2009), women held less than 25-percent of the STEM jobs, and are disproportionately fewer women having earned STEM undergraduate degrees, especially in engineering. In the U.K. (Kirkup, Zalevski, Maruyama, & Batool, 2010), women represented less than 12.3-percent of the workforce in all science, engineering, and technology occupations. Only one in five countries in the world have achieved gender equality in research careers (UNESCO, 2012). While Singapore is well-known for its excellent student performance in international mathematics and science tests such as Trends in International Mathematics and Science Study (TIMSS) and Programme for International Student Assessment (PISA), women make up less than 30-percent of the total researchers in 2012 (UNESCO, 2014). This worldwide phenomenon is often metaphorically described as the “leaky STEM pipeline” (Blickenstaff, 2005) which posed problems for developing and developed nations looking to harness more diverse ideas, increasing the number of productive workforce, and improving the quality of women’s lives. Currently, there are no published studies in the Singapore context that specifically examine how feminist approaches to STEM teaching impact girls’ attitudes (e.g., interest, self-concept, STEM career and post-secondary education decisions, and participation) towards STEM, and the construction of STEM-related identities. This is a proposal for a research study about the Singapore Committee for United Nations Women, Girls To Pioneer programme, which is aimed at promoting more women and girls in STEM fields. The programme adopts feminist pedagogies in actively engaging girls to participate in diverse STEM activities so that positive attitudes towards STEM may be developed. Using pre- and post-programme surveys, lesson videos, and interviews, we examine the impact of the Girls To Pioneers programme on diverse participants’ attitudes and STEM identities. The participants are girls aged between 10-15 and recruited from schools or private centres (e.g., after school study centres) that have signed up for the Girls to Pioneers programme. The findings will have implications for Singapore STEM educators as they develop greater awareness about gender inequity issues in STEM, and learn about informal STEM efforts that can help to shape girls’ attitudes and constructed STEM identities so that they can also emulate and promote such efforts in their everyday teaching.

Funding Source
MOE

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