Improving our STEM education is a national priority

Posted on: June 30th, 2022 by Dr. Jorge Grünberg
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Dr. Jorge Grünberg, member of the National Academy of Engineering (ANIU) and rector of ORT Uruguay University, highlighted the importance of improving education in Science, Technology, Engineering and Mathematics (STEM), given that “young people who choose scientific orientation have a much greater chance of accessing higher-paying jobs.”

In his last column, published in El País newspaper on Sunday, June 26th, Grünberg highlighted the recent presentation of the report “STEM education in Uruguay: Everyone’s challenge“, prepared by the National Academies of Engineering, Medicine and Mathematics.

This modality of work, of an inter-institutional and interdisciplinary group that, with this representativeness, offers consensus recommendations on a complex issue such as education, “should be an example at this time in which we have not managed to depoliticize the discussion on retirement, the price of fuel , number portability or the change of technical director of the national team”, said the rector of ORT Uruguay University.

In line with the publication of the report on STEM education, Grünberg also highlighted the recent holding in Montevideo of a meeting organized by the Uruguay-Israel Chamber of Commerce with the aim of learning more about the innovation ecosystem of that country, which has been successful in promoting the creation of fast-growing technology companies.

There he insisted that one of the main obstacles that Uruguay has to promote the creation of technology companies is the shortage of engineers. According to Grünberg, it is indisputable that a greater availability of IT professionals would facilitate the launch of technology companies, help national companies to become more technical, attract more foreign investment and reduce unemployment and underemployment of young professionals.

However, in our country very few young people choose scientific orientation. According to statistics from the Ministry of Education and Culture, in 2020 only 14% of the almost 45,000 students in the 5th year of secondary school chose the scientific baccalaureate (almost 45% chose the humanistic baccalaureate).

“It is interesting to ask why the young people who may most need stable and high-paying jobs are the ones who least choose the high school orientation that gives them entry to those jobs,” Grünberg questions.

And he adds that “one possible answer (…) is that many public high school students do not choose scientific orientation due to the low quality of the training they receive. For example, in the PISA tests carried out in 2018, only 7% of Uruguayan students had a “high performance” in Science compared to 25% on average in the countries of the Organization for Economic Cooperation and Development.

Thus, “improving our STEM education is a national priority and can only be successfully addressed as a State policy,” concludes Grünberg.

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