Investigating the Themes and Perceptions of the Formal and Informal STEM Education Programs, STEM Career Development, and their Connections to the Triple Helix Component in the UAE

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The British University in Dubai (BUiD)
Background: The Triple Helix model creates collaborative relationships between its three components: government, university and industry. Through the cooperation of the Triple Helix actors, the conditions for knowledge production are made possible. A knowledge-based economy is necessary to promote innovation to achieve economic growth and stability. As a result, the needs of the future economy emphasize a growing demand for a STEM workforce. Globally, Science, Technology, Engineering and Mathematics (STEM) education has increased in popularity as a learning approach to address this gap. The Triple Helix model plays a vital role to benefit STEM education and increase the STEM workforce. In the UAE, the Economic Vision 2030 emphasizes developing STEM education to meet future workforce needs, creating an opportunity to use the Triple Helix model to improve STEM education and to develop future STEM careers. Purpose: The main purpose of the study is to investigate the common themes related to the formal and informal STEM education and stakeholders’ perceptions and responses on formal and informal STEM education programs, STEM careers and the Triple Helix model in the UAE. Methods: The researcher employed exploratory sequential mixed methods approach for this study. The mixed research methods included both qualitative and quantitative methods. These include document analysis, questionnaires and semi-structured interviews. For the document analysis, 5 national and global policy documents from countries excelling in STEM education were analyzed for themes. For the questionnaire, 123 leaders/teachers, 101 parents, and 361 students from the governmental school cluster participated. For the industry cluster, 53 leaders/teachers and 101 students participated. For the university cluster, 54 leaders/teachers and 110 students participated. Interviews were then conducted with leaders and teachers from the government, industry and university clusters. There were 15 participants from governmental schools, 7 from industry institutions and 7 from universities. Results: The findings of this study included a positive perceptions of STEM education programs and STEM careers from the participants in all clusters. The study found that the implementation of STEM education programs would increase motivation by encouraging students and help to drive their interests towards STEM disciplines. Additionally, the stakeholders emphasized the importance of STEM education programs to prepare students for future jobs, which can benefit from the Triple Helix model. Also, there was no difference between male and female students regarding STEM career perceptions in all three Triple Helix clusters. The findings showed that there is a need for the Triple Helix components to play a larger role in STEM education to improve its implementation in the governmental schools and to increase the number of students pursuing STEM careers. To build student capacity and motivation, more incentives are needed to encourage students in the governmental schools to pursue STEM careers. Currently, schools need to collaborate with universities and industries for the benefit of STEM education. There is room for improvement due to the fact that partnerships are based on the region and the resources available. Implications/Contributions: To meet the needs of a growing demand for a future STEM workforce, policymakers can use the Triple Helix model to enhance formal and informal STEM education programs and increase the number of students pursuing STEM careers. This will improve the knowledge-based economy that is necessary to achieve the UAE’s Vision 2030.
STEM education programs, STEM career development, triple helix, United Arab Emirates (UAE), STEM workforce, Economic Vision 2030