STEM – it is a term that people today, at the very least, would have heard of. However, does everybody actually really know what it is? Is it important?
First, let us establish the fact that STEM is an acronym. STEM stands for Science, Technology, Engineering, and Mathematics. These fields of study are very important by virtue of them being very much embedded in how people lead their daily lives.
Think about it:
Science – is the study of the nature and behaviour of natural things. Any observable phenomena (e.g. life, human behaviour, climate, etc.) can be described by one of the many branches of science.
Technology – covers all the tools and equipment that society today has become very much reliant on. Imagine if we suddenly lose access to the internet and our smart phones, computers, and GPS – it would be fair to say that a lot of people will struggle to function.
Engineering – is the application of science that is primarily concerned with the design and building of machines and infrastructure. The structure you call home, the vehicle that takes you from point A to point B, the roads and bridges that connect places – these are all feats of engineering.
Mathematics – from determining how much cash you hand over to a cashier to deciding which mode of transport you should take to minimize your travel time – maths is a field of science that has very practical applications.
STEM education is a platform that enables learners to be exposed to practical concepts that are relevant to the 21st century. Developed as a curriculum that integrates all of the fields together, a better understanding of how theoretical concepts can be taken to develop solutions to real-world problems is established. As an example, the concept of human biology provides the understanding of how our bodies work, maths and engineering are then utilized to create the technologies such as x-ray scanners that provide medical professionals the means to determine whether there is something wrong with a patient.
Back in 2016, did you know that in the United States of America (USA), the number of STEM occupations grew by 17%? This was in comparison to the 9.8% growth of other occupations (Engineering for Kids, 2016). It was projected by the US Bureau of Labor Statistics that between 2014 – 2024, STEM-related occupations will be the fastest growing at 28.2% (Stella Fayer, 2017).
Because STEM education provides a good foundation of knowledge across multiple fields of study, it creates multiple opportunities for students to pursue any professional career. It is also important to note that the skills gained via this learning approach are by no means applicable to STEM-related industries only. At its very core students are trained to develop a creative, curious, and critical mind. In as much as it is important for engineers to be problem solvers, business owners, artists, and lawyers also need to be innovative and critical thinkers to succeed in their profession.
Quoting the National Investors Hall of Fame, the value of STEM education lies in its ability to develop 21st century skills. “This includes media and technology literacy, productivity, social skills, communication, flexibility and initiative. Other skills attained through STEM education include problem solving, critical thinking, creativity, curiosity, decision making, leadership, entrepreneurship, acceptance of failure and more.”
In simplistic terms, it is with STEM education that students are developed to be future-ready.