Statistics Capacity Building in a Developing Country – Experiences, Opportunities and Challenges
Statistics Capacity Building has traditionally been associated with building capacity in Official Statistics, i.e. the capability to collect, analyze and disseminate high quality data in a timely manner and analysing the data for effective functioning of government, the economy and society. Statistical Capacity Building in the 21st century encompasses the capability to deliver relevant statistics training for the needs in ALL areas of official statistics, as well as public and private sectors, academia and research centres. This calls for education systems to deliver effective and updated statistics training across the spectrum, from basic data literacy to high level straining in the statistical sciences.
Challenges faced when building statistics capacity across the spectrum are well documented, however in developing countries, these challenges are similar, but often on a larger scale and more critical.
The author will give an overview of lessons learnt and experiences in statistics capacity building initiatives in a developing country, at all levels in South Africa (school to PhD), over a period of more than 25 years.
Delia North graduated with a BSc, BSc (Hons), MSc and PhD respectively from the University of Natal in South Africa Her undergraduate majors were Mathematics and Mathematical Statistics and her post graduate degrees were in Statistics (Probability Theory). She joined this university as a lecturer in 1982 and is currently the Dean and Head of the School of Mathematics, Statistics and Computer Science.She has over 25 years experience in the teaching and design of Statistics curricula at university. Over the years, her passion for teaching Statistics has resulted in her becoming a leading figure in South African Statistics Education circles.
She has been a member of the South African Statistical Association (SASA) executive committee since 1993 and was elected to the South African Statistical Association Education Committee in 1997, a national committee that she has chaired since 2003. She was chair of the LOC of ICOTS6, was a topic chair at ICOTS7, and has since been invited speaker/ session organizer at ICOTS and ISI conferences. She joined the ISI council in 2016, in particular as recognition for her work done in statistics capacity building in a developing country.
Delia is known in particular for the groundbreaking work that she has done to assist with the introduction of Statistics at school level in South Africa, having been on a government task team to define the school curriculum, as well as being the master trainer for in-service teacher training to deliver the Data Handling component of the school curriculum.
As lecturer of statistics, involved with training of first year to fourth year BSc graduates in Statistics, she has had a wealth of experience in statistics teaching and curriculum design at tertiary level, in particular leading the discipline as Head of the School of Statistics and Actuarial Science, from 2004 to 2010. She has further graduated many MSc and PhD students in Applied Statistics, particularly with a large proportion of these post graduate students having topics grounded in Statistics Education, in particular topics related to analyzing data from the education systems of South Africa.
What are the Mathematics Houses in Iran and what they have done to popularize Statistics
Since 1999, teams of Iranian high school teachers and university faculties have established what are called Mathematics Houses in Iran.
“Math House” is a community center that aims to provide a learning environment and opportunities for students and teachers at all levels for experiencing deeper understanding of mathematical concepts and developing creativity through working on real-life problems by team work and cooperation. In this talk we will introduce the houses and present some of their activities, then we will discuss the necessity of popularizing statistics among the public by promoting and enhancing statistics education among the teachers and students. The last part will be devoted to what we have done at mathematics houses for this enhancement, and why we established a statistics house in Isfahan.
Ali Rejali of Isfahan University of Technology (IUT), who graduated from Statistics Department of Stanford University in 1978 and who has been involved in doing theoretical research, training many undergraduates and graduates , as well as being involved in some statistical projects for industry, decided to devote his life for popularizing Statistics.Ali is the co-founder of the Iranian national mathematics competitions and has a generally strong record of establishing enrichment activities in his country including the mathematics houses which he and his colleagues have established and recently a Statistics House in his town. He has had considerable influence in setting the scene for the national mathematics syllabus in mathematics and statistics via lectures at national conferences and other representations.
He has spent one year at Harvard University in USA and was a scholar at Australian National University (ANU) and Australian Mathematics Trust (AMT) during his sabbatical leaves. Ali’s talk at the second Iranian Statistics Conference (in 1994) was a source of inspiration for the curriculum developers to introduce a course on statistics and modeling for all high school students in Iran. He has also had considerable influence in supporting teachers, as well as being the co-founder of many societies for mathematics teachers throughout the country and the founder of both the Iranian Mathematics Education conferences and the Iranian Statistics Conferences. Ali was involved in some major studies for improvement of mathematics and statistics education in Iran , as well as organizing many workshops on teaching Statistics and probability at school level( Joint ICMI/IASE Study: Teaching Statistics in School Mathematics, Mexico,2008).
Ali has been actively involved in the World Federation of the National Mathematics Competitions (WFNMC) since its beginning and he had major role in many committees of the Federation, as well as being the chair and coordinator of some sections of WFNMC conferences in China and Australia. He is now a Vice President of and a member of the Program Committee of the WFNMC. He was one of the co chairs for some of the TSGs of ICMEs and invited speaker at a special program on “Mathematics, Education, and Society” at the 6th International Congress on Mathematical Education (ICME-6). He is also a member of the 16th International Commission on Mathematics Instructions (ICMI) study and one of the official representatives of Iran at ICMI. He is also the representative and organizer of the International Mathematics Tournament of Towns Competitions in Iran, as well as the A_lympiad competitions dealing with realistic mathematics in which many statistical problems are being presented.
Ali Rejali is the winner of some prestigious awards such as Paul Erdos Award of the WFNMC (in 2006) and Behzad Award of the Iranian Mathematical Society (in 2012).