We heartily congratulate the team of young innovators who have brought laurels for the country after becoming the champion in the biggest global robotics competition for high-school students titled FIRST Global Challenge, competing against 173 countries. The three-month-long annual contest, styled after the Olympics, was held online this year due to the pandemic. The 10-member Team Bangladesh won 117 points to secure the top position, followed by Chile with 115 points. Last year, in the third edition of this competition, the Bangladesh team stood seventh. In this year's event, the team members, all mentored by the Tech Academy, engaged in social media and technical challenges testing their skills in the fields of robotics and engineering. The gradual progress of our participants through the years indicate their growing skills and familiarity with a global-level challenge, which raises our hopes in the future of our students.
The recognition, however, comes at a time when there are mounting concerns about the future of STEM, which stands for subjects related to the broad categories of science, technology, engineering and mathematics, in Bangladesh. Available studies mapping the trajectories of students show declining interest or involvement in these subjects, especially science. Today, an overwhelming number of students cannot study science, while an increasingly large number are not interested in it at all. While some of the reasons for this may be personal, most are structural.
For instance, according to a report by The Daily Star in 2017, many schools and colleges do not even have a science department or club, although all educational institutions have business studies or humanities departments. Of the institutions that have science departments, few have well-equipped laboratories. There is also a huge scarcity of well-trained science teachers and quality textbooks. Schools often impose qualifying marks on students willing to take science after passing grade eight, due to limited seats, which also works as a barrier. These restrictions and resource constraints are responsible for the declining numbers of science students. According to a BANBEIS report in 2015, the number of students studying science at the secondary level reduced at a rate of 48 percent from 1993 to 2015. The rate was 36 percent at the higher secondary level between 1995 and 2015.
We need to change this scenario. We need to make it easy, attractive and even remunerative for students to study STEM and build a career out of it, since an economy cannot progress without a healthy number of graduates leading its innovation landscape. We need qualified teachers and quality textbooks, guided by a modern education policy reflective of the urgency in this regard. We urge the government to take necessary steps in this regard and extend all policy, funding and infrastructural support to remove existing barriers, so our young students can lead the country in the coming days.