Turkey is a nation whose borders cover from Eastern Europe to western Asia, muddled with cultural connections dating back to the ancient Greek and Ottoman empires. We Pakistanis know Turkey from T.V shows such as “Mera Sultan” and “Fariha”, and I may be getting side tracked here, but with Turkey on the rise as a main tourist’s attraction, it is also gaining popularity in another field: the fields of science, engineering, technology and mathematics (STEM).
The ode to women’s rise in STEM goes to the Turkish women themselves as they empower each other to progress in the field of STEM on an individual, societal and communal level. And for those of us witnessing this epicenter of change for them, it’s like a breath of fresh air.
WEI is one such non- profit organization that is empowering women to boldly step forward in the art of STEM. The mission of IEEE WEI is to “facilitate the recruitment and retention of women in technical disciplines globally. IEEE WIE envisions a vibrant community of IEEE women and men collectively using their diverse talents to innovate for the benefit of humanity.”
IEEE's implementation in Turkey is likely to emancipate women from the societal chained mind-set that females are not to enter the field of STEM; (at least seriously) or in terms of a long term profession.
This shift of the tectonic plates of the mind is what is causing Turkey to rise, like a phoenix from the ashes, in the field of STEM. And the proof is in the pudding; according to the Muslim science website; Task Force Essay: STEM Education and the Muslim Gender Divide the amount of women in engineering is declining in the U.S., while it is improving in other countries. For example, the U.S. is behind thirteen Muslim countries in the percentage of women graduating with STEM degrees, including Turkey. Moreover, a study titled Women in Engineering, Science, Technology and Mathematic; by Kristine De Welde, from Florida Gulf Coast University and Sandra Laursen and Heather Thiry from the University of Colorado at Boulder, shows that around the world Turkey and Greece both have twice as many graduates for BS and PhD in physics than the US. Reinforcing that viewpoint, Turkish organizations like FeteMM are on the yellow brick road to success in the subject of STEM.
In this manner, the Turkish unique blend of old and new applied in STEM is really working. Pakistan should follow in their footsteps by merging historical culture and modernity simultaneously to take women’s progression forward. This can be done by adopting methods from the west but customizing them to suit the historical values of Pakistan.
Iran is another Muslim state that’s taken the world by storm with its female population’s involvement in STEM. The World Post posted an article titled “Despite What Happens at the Top, Iranian Women Move Forward.”
An article by Forbes/ Entrepreneur’s illustrates “The common myth about women in Iran is that they are seen, but not heard, that they’re not permitted to drive, that they are second-class citizens, and that entrepreneurship and positions of power are out of reach. These notions are wrong.” And I could not agree with this statement more.
As I write this article I am overcome by emotions of gratitude and a feeling of 'awe' towards the Iranian women who are breaking stereotypes left, right and centre. Did I say break? I meant utterly shattering the ego of chauvinistic men who have failed in preventing women from progressing in STEM As Doctor Peyvadni said “It’s a historic change.”
This can be seen in the fact that Iranian women are now entering the male dominated field of technology and blooming in the tech business. For those women reading this article in Pakistan this is not your typical article where I will just go on a pessimistic rant about how other Muslim nations are excelling, such as the progressive STEM study in Turkey and Iran, while we just sit behind and watch as the world and is women progress and we stand at a standstill, NO!
What can Pakistan learn from STEM Study in Turkey and Iran:
Can the Pakistani government, policy-makers and regulators learn something from patterns adopted to facilitate STEM Study in Turkey and Iran, especially for women? Yes, absolutely! Below I have identified where Pakistan lags behind, after which I have given solutions to improve our footing in the field of STEM.
Identification of areas where Pakistan is lagging behind:
- The number of female’s graduates with STEM degrees is very low. A contributing factor that hinders the enrollment rates of girls include poverty, illiteracy of parents and parental concerns about safety and mobility of their daughters.
- Lack of women in STEM markets and tech entrepreneurial business projects.
- Female literacy rate is very low in Pakistan.
- Lack of taking technical education systems as a priority.
- Gender disparity in primary and secondary schools.
- Different syllabus and educational learning styles exist in Pakistan. This often leads to unfair advantages that some students pertain over others.
- Pakistan spends only 2.4% of its GDP on education and, in South Asia, Pakistan has the lowest spending on education.
- War on terror: fighting the war on terror in Pakistan is utilizing most of Pakistan's financial funds and because of this the vocational and technical educational training has suffered.
- Failure in planning of educational reforms and their implementation -Pakistan is a signatory to MDGs and EFA goals. However it has failed in meeting these international commitments because of financial management issues and constraints to achieve the MDGs and EFA goals.
Methods of Improvement:
- Create more of a friendly environment that empowers women to pursue careers and degrees in STEM. For example have practical implementation of the 2010 Protection against Harassment of Women Act.
- In a male dominated society, encourage women in entrepreneurial STEM related start-up business and projects.
- Change policies on a governmental level and increase the literacy budget of the nation.
- The same syllabus should be implemented in all provinces of the government so that both female and male students do not face discrimination on University or on a higher education level.
- Reform the educational curriculum to include female scientists and other female role models that have made a contribution in the past and present towards the discipline of STEM.
- Understand and implement the human capital theory; the female contribution to the workforce will benefit the population at large and the state.
- Encourage gender equality within the workplace by conducting workshops and governmental awareness campaigns.
- Investment in similar projects such as STEMvisions as it is necessary for encouragement of women on a local level.
- Technical education must be made a priority and must be given to all the classes from secondary school.
- The government should pass a governmental mandate to provide free and compulsory education to all children between the ages of 5-16 years and enhance adult literacy.
- Mission 2030 of Planning Commission of Pakistan looks for an academic environment which promotes the thinking mind. These goals should be taken very seriously and implemented with the utmost honesty, hard work and diligence.
Vivacious. And making waves.