“When I was a child, when I was an adolescent, books saved me from despair that convinced me that culture was the highest of values.” - Simone de Beauvoir on culture.
In the sociological theoretical framework there lies no doubt that indeed culture plays an influential role in shaping the minds of those belonging to a particular society. Culture aids in the socialization process of a child. It can be safely said that culture shapes a child's interest in STEM (Science, Technology, Engineering and Math) fields majorly. Being a fundamentally cultural oriented nation Pakistan is no exception to this natural rule of law.
How Pakistani Culture shapes a child's interest in STEM:
While speaking of the Pakistani culture it is important to understand that irrespective of economic class, religious creed, gender or tribe Pakistani’s truly value education in its purest form as a system to elevate, inform and reform the lives of those privileged enough to be a part of it whether their role be that of teacher or student. This is because for most families living here education is not seen as some commonplace “task” to be performed by the child nor some preordained and governed “obligation.” on the parent. Despite contrary beliefs education is seen as a beacon of hope, a light in a room full of darkness, an opportunity for a better standard of life; and a foundation for a better quality of life. Such deep statements are not just metaphorically heavy but weigh heavily on the child’s conscious too. This is because the majority of children in Pakistan see education as a pragmatic and realistic strategy that can alter their lives for the better.
Furthermore, with regard to cultural influence of science, technology, engineering and math in Pakistan it is also pivotal to understand that realistically before educational institutions can focus on engaging children actively in the field of S.T.E.M the government needs to take a greater leap forward in investing in educational institutions. Currently Pakistan spends only 2.5pc of its GDP on education, one of the lowest rates in the world; with appalling figures such as these it’s safe to say that at this current junction in time our educational institutions are simply not delivering or rather not being given the fair and honest chance to.
This was clearly stated in the Dawn News article – “Education in Pakistan” and I fully agree with the statement that the discrimination that can be found within the educations system needs to be addressed. However, on a more positive note the fact that such issues are even being brought to light and discussed on such wide platforms with solutions and critics posed every day raises the belief that there is still hope for educational reform via cultural enlightenment in Pakistan.
Despite this traditional mind set adapting to suit the needs of modern day society it will take Pakistan just like any other developed nation before it truly achieves an egalitarian societal model. In which both male and female population of society are equally given the educational opportunities with regard to S.T.E.M. however, it is also important to portray a realistic picture and understand that no society is Utopian in nature. Thus, complete egalitarianism in any field, especially the field of education some sociologists would argue is not something that can be achieved in developed societies let alone developing ones such as Pakistan.
However, this being said given closer observation of the culture of Pakistan only 30 years back a lot of emphasis was placed on the males of the family picking subjects suited to S.T.E.M. such as mathematics and sciences especially so that later on boys would excel in job fields that catered to such professions such as mechanical engineering, computer engineering, doctors and so on.
While society socialised females in their subconscious minds to opt for subjects such as social sciences or “soft” subjects so that females in particular learned to knit, sow, iron in order to fit the traditional western and eastern gender roles. For examples; in Lahore attaining a bachelor’s degree from home economics was considered the height of educational refinement for a young lady.
Backtracking there is no doubt Pakistan has come a long way from the traditional gender roles and yet it is also true that the nation has still has a long way to go however in that case, so does the western world. For in many western cultures, such as that of the Unites States only recently has the debate emerged as to whether children from an early age should be exposed to the ideas and opportunities of S.T.E.M. Questions have arose as to when is the best possible time or optimum age that a child should be allowed to engage in S.T.E.M related subjects?
This question was answered eloquently by the NAAEE as their feature story illustrates that it is never too early to start a child’s education on S.T.E.M. this is because growth and knowledge of any kind is beneficial for a child, regardless of whether the child is a young girl or a young boy. This societal advancement and understanding of exposing children to S.T.E.M has not yet emerged in Pakistan but given the current trends of our generation’s men and women the future of educational enlightenment with regard to science, technology, engineering and math (S.T.E.M) seems bright. And soon Pakistan too shall follow in the path of other western educational models that are emerging with regard to this field of study.
I recently conducted a questionnaire asking 10 children; 5 girls and 5 boys from Froebel's International High School to rate their experience with math from; excellent, good, fair to poor. The findings of my study were as follows:
3/5 girls; (Meesha Baig, Minahil Mansoor and Minal) rated their experience with math as “good”. While Aimal Shoaib and Maresha rated their experience with math as “fair.” In contrast 4/5 boys (Asr, Yaqub, Huzaifa and Naseerullah) rated their experience with math as “excellent” while Hamza Erkin rated his experience as “fair.”
In this social experiment all the children come from similar socio- economic and cultural backgrounds. However, their performance in maths on a gender basis varied greatly. This could be due to each child’s own individual interest in the subject itself which is reflective in their mathematical experience, as children with a keener interest in maths are more likely to focus more in class and see math as a fun activity that stimulates the mind rather than just "homework". Supporting the view point that yes, culture does influence a child’s interest in S.T.E.M however, other factors such as the child’s personality, the opportunities of tuition that some children can avail while others cannot and many others should also be taken into account.
More importantly, Ralph Linton’s work regarding acquired status and achieved status can be ideologically applied to culture as well. For acquired culture can be representative of an individual’s own culture and heritage while achieved culture can be reflective of what the individual have themselves done other than their socialization to attain educational and academic enlightenment in the field of S.T.E.M. After all men and women are products of the sum of all their parts, not just one particular piece.
Vivacious. And making waves.