It is largely uncontested that science, technology, engineering, arts, and mathematics (STEAM) is critical to propel Africa’s development. This requires inputs from education, to develop skilled human resources, and research, to generate insights needed for transformation. STEAM education on the continent however faces many hurdles including inadequate funding, lack of adequate equipment, few skilled instructors, over populated classrooms, and disengaged learners. Overarching these challenges is a sense of disconnect between what is taught in the classroom and the real world.
Advances in digital technology and changes in culture of research and education over the years have spurred the open science movement in many parts of the world, Africa inclusive. Open science by definition offers an alternative path to education, research, and innovation that is more cost-effective, inclusive, participatory, and community oriented. It leverages digital technology to put much needed tools and resources into the hands of learners and instructors along the educational pipeline. Finally, it offers a welcoming and supportive global community to colleagues in emerging societies.
To generate insights, we use existing STEAM and open science initiatives as case studies. We also draw on our ethnographic experiences as educators, in and out of the classroom, conversations with colleagues in these movements, and studies in extant literature.
We conclude that there must be a ‘collision’ of the Open Science and STEAM movements to infuse a culture of making, hacking, creativity, and inventiveness into the educational system. We recommend the integration of open science into school curricula, adapting programmes to the levels of pupils, the needs of communities, and available resources. Digital literacy should play a core part in this revolution, helping learners build hard skills and 21st century competencies such as leadership, collaboration, problem-solving, and communication.