16 National Baking Company Fellows to BOOST STEM Education in Jamaica

The University of the West Indies’ (The UWI) Faculty of Science and Technology and the National Baking Company Foundation (NBCF) presented the inaugural cohort of Fellows from the Building Out Our STEM Teachers programme – aptly called BOOST at a networking session hosted at the Jamaica Pegasus Hotel on Wednesday, August 18, 2021.

In his opening remarks, Deputy Principal of The UWI Mona, Professor Ian Boxill stated that “We have made several strides in supporting STEM education at the tertiary level with our latest commitment being the establishment of the Faculty of Engineering at the Mona Campus, which now offers a Cryogenics Engineering course. We have also been a significant player in supporting the Caribbean Examination Council’s CAPE Green Engineering Teacher Training Programme.”

He further stated that STEM education is one of the most vulnerable areas in the education sector, and this programme, he said, is an opportunity for us to shore up those vulnerabilities. “I am certain that this programme will be quite successful given the wide representation of stakeholders across the public and private sectors.”

How BOOST Works
Dean of the Faculty of Science & Technology, Prof Michael Taylor explained that BOOST is a “back-end incentivized scholarship scheme” developed to respond to the urgent need for more quality STEM (Science Technology Engineering and Mathematics) teachers in Jamaica’s classrooms. This need is highlighted by the 2017-2018 World Economic Forum Global Competitiveness Report, which ranked Jamaica at 73rd out of 137 countries in terms of the quality of science and math education.

With the implementation of BOOST, for the next six years, a new cohort of NBCF Fellows, representing the best science and education graduates from The UWI, will be placed in high schools to teach STEM subjects. The Fellows will receive a scholarship equivalent to the cost of one year of their University tuition for each year they spend teaching in the programme, up to three years, with a further incentive payment for excellent performance. Fellows will also benefit from specially designed mentorship schemes, summer training and outreach programmes and networking opportunities.

At a critical juncture in our national life
Guest Speaker at the Networking Session, Mr Howard Mitchell, Chairman of the National Health Fund and Member of Jamaica STEM for Growth Foundation, extended his congratulations while issuing a charge for others to partner on this ground-breaking programme. “I congratulate everyone who has been instrumental in launching this project and I call on those who can emulate it, to do so without fail”, Mr Mitchell said.

Mr. Mitchell opined that as a country, Jamaica pours money into education, into health (4% of GDP), into infrastructure, into agriculture – but submits that our productivity rate is falling. According to him, the reason for this is not enough investment in human capital. “We are not spending the money on the development of human capital. We are at a critical juncture in our national life – it is initiatives such as this that will lead us to the recovery roads for our beloved country”, he stated.

A BOOST for Jamaica’s development agenda
Executive Director of the National Baking Company Foundation, Ms. Lauri-Ann Samuels, in her remarks solidified the NBCF’s unwavering commitment to the programme, stating that, “The National Baking Company Foundation is grateful to have been brought on board to partner with The University of the West Indies to produce this game-changing initiative. Earlier this year, the Foundation pledged over $159 million over six years to literally “boost” Jamaica’s development agenda through improving our competencies in STEM. We recognize how vital a role Science, Technology, Engineering and Math play in our national development agenda and we’re eager to join in to make this program a reality.”

She continued, “We expect that this initiative will have a significant impact on not just the lives of the recipients of the scholarship, but the lives of every boy and girl who will have been impacted by these educators who are strong in the STEM subject areas.”

Ms Samuels congratulated the inaugural NBCF Fellows cohort, wishing them all the best on their journey and assured them that “the Foundation will continue to stand with The University of the West Indies and other key stakeholders who have come on board to create avenues for our STEM students to grow.”

Partners
As The UWI saluted National Baking Company Foundation for their significant commitment and contribution to this BOOST programme, it also acknowledged the support of the Ministry of Education, Youth & Information, the Digicel Foundation, the Students’ Loan Bureau, Jamaica Teaching Council, The Mico University College, the National Education Inspectorate, and the American Friends of Jamaica – a true academia-private sector-government partnership to solve pressing issues of national importance.

Photo Caption: Deputy Principal, Professor Ian Boxill and Ms. Lauri-Ann Samuels, Executive Director of the National Baking Company Foundation are flanked by members of the first cohort of Fellows of the Building Out Our STEM Teachers (BOOST) programme. The occasion was the networking session which took place at The Jamaica Pegasus Hotel on August 18, 2021.