STEM starts early: Views and beliefs of early childhood education stakeholders in Tanzania
For about a decade, Tanzania has intensely focused on developing literacy and numeracy skills in pre-primary and early grades programs. Recently, the attention has shifted towards the significance of teaching Science, Mathematics, Technology and Science (STEM) in the early years. To enhance the 21st century skills necessary for building a middle income and knowledge-based economies, the existing empirical evidence emphasizes the need for STEM education starting from pre-primary level. This paper aims to unpack the state of the STEM education in pre-primary education in Tanzania. By using homogenous purposive sampling, two policy-makers, three ECE academics, eight school principals, and eight pre-primary teachers from rural and urban public schools were recruited. Data were collected by interviews, semi-structured survey questionnaires, and documentary analyses. Though there was consensus among ECE stakeholders that children should be exposed to STEM environments as early as possible, findings indicated that even among ECE practitioners, there is a very vague understanding of what entails of STEM education in ECE. Further, while teachers were aware and guided to facilitate science and mathematics education, they were not aware and there were no specific policy briefs/circular instructions on how to facilitate Technology and Engineering education in ECE. The paper concludes with suggestions on how to integrate STEM in early childhood education, especially for Tanzania.
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