ENGLISH FOR STEM EDUCATION: AN INVESTIGATION OF THE IMPACT OF INCIDENTAL VOCABULARY ACQUISITION ON STEM EDUCATION IN KENYA

Integration of Science, Technology, Engineering and Mathematics (STEM) into learning is an education approach recognized by UN STEM Policy Paper as a priority for a fast-moving technology-driven world. Unfortunately, African countries fall behind STEM education outputs compared to more developed countries with less than 25% of African higher education students pursuing STEM related career fields against more students taking social sciences and humanities while in the United States, between 2010-2018, the number of STEM bachelors degree awarded grew by 62% and 20% for all other degrees (UN, 2022). The vital role and urgent need for STEM education in Africa is articulated and emphasized in existing frameworks including Continental Education Strategy for Africa (Union, 2015), Science, Technology and Innovation for Africa (Daniels, 2017) and the East African Community Vision 2050 (Tramberend, et al., 2020). The Kenya Vision 2030 (GOK, 2008), Constitution of Kenya 2010 (Kenya, 2013), and the New National Education Curriculum released by the Ministry of Education in Kenya (MOE, 2018) accentuates this stance. English as the official medium of instruction in education institutions in Kenya (KIE, 2002) is central to STEM education as it provides meaningful contexts for learning STEM education (National Academy of Sciences, 2018). Extensive Reading (ER) as a study strategy in English promotes incidental vocabulary acquisition (Brown et al, 2008) which is critical in acquisition of language, and has the potential to improve learner engagement in STEM education and learning. Yet a survey by GeoPoll (2015) in Kenya revealed that only 20% of the youths aged 15-35 engage in ER. This study therefore investigates the impact of incidental vocabulary acquisition (Webb & Chang, 2015; Hulstijn, 2003) using physical and digital libraries (Huang & Liou, 2007; Huang, 2007), graded readers (Ramonda, 2020; Powell, 2002; Hill,2008), a learning management system (Wang & Chen, 2009), and quizzes (Kapsargina & Olentsova, 2020) on STEM education. The study is informed by critical dialectical pluralism (Onwuegbuzie & Frels, 2013), an ecological systems theory of human development (Bronfenbrenner & Morris, 2007) and the Four Strands Principle (Nation & Yamamoto, 2012), and will follow a longitudinal mixed methods research methodology (McKinley & Rose, 2020; Burke, 2007). The study will be conducted in 15 STEM education schools in Vihiga, Kakamega, Bungoma and Busia Counties of Western Kenya.

Key words: Principles of Extensive Reading, Incidental Vocabulary Acquisition, Physical and Digital libraries, Graded Readers, Quizzes, and Learning Management System.