The conference theme was: Research for Inclusive, Relevant and Equitable Quality Mathematics, Science and Technology Education: Promoting Research-based Opportunities for All.
Conference chairperson and UKZN academic Professor Nadaraj Govender said: ‘SAARMSTE as a STEM research institution plays a critical role in developing and communicating current and innovative ideas in the Science, Technology, Engineering and Mathematics (STEM) education fields. UKZN is proud to host this prestigious international conference bringing international, southern African and local delegates under one roof to present, share, challenge and publish on STEM research.’
Govender believes these discourses and conversations, comprising more than 200 papers, will add long term value in addressing diverse challenges embedded in the 4th Industrial Revolution, ICT, climatic change, sustainability, teaching and learning, among other issues in STEM. ‘This also includes factoring human resources, including developing a critical mass of researchers, graduates and students to contribute to education, economic and human development in the STEM fields,’ said Govender.
Govender thanked the LOC team and sponsors for organising the event.
Deputy Vice-Chancellor and Head of the College Professor Nhlanhla Mkhize and the Dean of the School Professor Thabo Msibi were guest speakers and addressed issues related to STEM research, social justice and decolonisation.
SAARMSTE chairperson Professor Kenneth Ngcoza said SAARMSTE had emerged as a formidable and significant developmental organisation over the last 27 years in STEM research. ‘The fact that it still walks tall today is a testimony to the richness, depth and most importantly, the Ubuntu of the SAARMSTE research community.’
Academic Leader for the Science and Technology Education Cluster in the School, Professor Busisiwe Alant delivered the plenary address on the topic: Technology Education Re-imagined: Navigating the 4th Industrial Revolution.
‘The poor conceptualisation of Technology Education has led to a lack of agreement on what the nature of technological knowledge should be and how Technology Education needs to be organised,’ said Alant. ‘For Technology Education to position itself as an established discipline, it must do so not just in its own right but also in relation to other subjects, in order to establish itself in any curricula.’
Addressing the conference theme, Alant drew on the fourth industrial revolution as a platform from which to re-imagine Technology Education. ‘Technologies such as artificial intelligence, the internet of things, digital fabrication, and robotics, not only change the structure of our disciplines, economies, industries and governments, but also challenge our ideas about what it means to be human,’ said Alant.
Other keynote speakers included Professor Robert Berry of the University of Virginia in the United States and colleague Professor Judith Lederman of the Illinois Institute of Technology in Chicago.
Professor Fred Lubben supervised a writing workshop for 20 selected novice reseachers in preparation for submission to journals.
The next SAARMSTE conference will be hosted by Rhodes University in Grahamstown next year.