Stimulating Curiosity in Science
I am Science
A major contributor to the gender digital divide is inequitable access to education for girls - and this gap has increased in developing countries since 2013. With the "I Am Science" project, we are introducing a video-sharing app that offers step by step instructions for doing fun, safe and easy science activities at home, and the chance to be rewarded with data and airtime.
Aimed at early high school girls in disadvantaged urban areas, the project aims to promote curiosity in science and critical thinking among future generations. I Am Science contributes towards the #eskills4girls initiative, which has been identified as one of the G20 deliverables and seeks to empower women and girls for the digital transformation.
Only when Africa addresses its massive science and technology skills shortage can it achieve sustainable economic and social development. But this shortage will remain as long as the gender disparity in Science, Technology, Engineering and Mathematics (STEM) does. Only about 39% of science researchers in South Africa are women. Globally, this figure is even worse and stands at 30%. These figures can be attributed to the many barriers society sets in front of women in their pursuit of science careers such as family-caring and the perpetuation of damaging gender stereotypes.
In South Africa the poorly resourced public education system is also a major contributor. Only about 18% of South Africa’s schools have science labs and many of their science teachers are poorly trained. This means that, at a watershed moment in their development, children often view science as too difficult or uninspiring and therefore do not choose to continue learning science until the end of school. This closes the door to studying science at university, and ultimately, the opportunity to becoming a science professional. Even if children do choose to study it until the end of school, inadequate exposure to tangible science activities limits their grasp of scientific concepts.
Within this context, the I Am Science or Digital Access to Knowledge project aims, in the short term, to increase interest in and meaningful understanding of basic scientific concepts among early high-school girls in disadvantaged, urban areas which will support them to continue studying science at school. In the long term, it aims to inspire a sustained curiosity and increased engagement in science among girls while developing critical thinking; increased participation in a Smart Future and, ultimately, propelling them towards science-related careers.
The project aims to achieve this through its video-sharing platform which is hosted on an existing mobile learning app. The platform provides a list of safe, fun and easy science activities that the target group can do at home using common household items.
Users are encouraged to form groups with their friends and use their cellphones to record themselves doing these science activities. They can then upload the videos onto the platform where they will be assessed for quality by a content management team and, if they meet the stipulated standards, made public for all users to view. Users are incentivized to participate through a rewards system: tokens are allocated for successful video submissions and are redeemable for data and airtime. The opportunity to learn and engage with peers about science through short, fun videos is another strong incentive. Potential users will be driven to the platform by project ambassadors who are members of the target group. Ambassadors will be trained to use the platform during a six-week programme which also exposes them to role models in the form of women working in or studying science.
The project is based on the principles of user-generated content, peer-to-peer learning; incentivized learning; learning through doing, and role-modeling.
The project will expand into three other African countries between April 2017 and December 2018.
I Am Science is realised within the initiative “Digital Access To Knowledge”. Digital Access to Knowledge is a project by the Goethe-Institut South Africa with financial support of the German Federal Ministry for Economic Cooperation and Development (BMZ), implemented by the Goethe-Institut and supported by GIZ.