The world of today is unlike anything we could imagine a generation ago. Technology has been revolutionized to a point where it is updated on a yearly basis. This has influenced other factors as well, such as culture and lifestyle. One other factor that has been affected is education. The criteria that our curriculum follows has become somewhat outdated when it comes to teaching children. The future generation that depends on us to help guide them has found themselves in a difficult position, where what is being taught in school does not amalgamate certain subjects. This, in turn, prevents their growth of understanding and combining ideas from different topics.
With the education system lagging behind, schools and colleges must consider bringing in STEM education to the academic world. This involves students from different fields and ages. Be it a college student, or a small toddler from nursery; each deserves a new and innovative form of teaching if they are to become innovators of the future.
To understand how we can implement and benefit from STEM education, we need to first know what STEM is. The acronym itself brings together different fields into one context. By definition, it stands for Science, Technology, Engineering and Mathematics. This umbrella of subjects not only involves the topics mentioned but include vocational education and training. In recent years, many scientists believe that this technique of teaching has not been fully implemented in the education system and needs to be emphasized on more.
The concept of STEM dates back to the 1990’s, when computers began to shift further towards the household and became more prevalent in the office environment and schools. The acronym was intended to list four different disciplines, but over time, due to different interpretations of the term, it has become more about representing a complex concept of which brings together matters such as employment, education and productivity. Since different groups have varying understanding of the term, it has led them to set different agendas and means of implementations. You won’t see STEM being addressed in the same manner when comparing government goals to academic criteria. Rather than being a standalone definition, STEM is now an umbrella term involving disciplines, concepts and predicting possible outcomes.
Stem education and training involve applying the four disciplines into the academic field by establishing relationships between the subjects. Its focus is on helping people expand their abilities by involving scientific and technical education, placing emphasis on creativity and critical thinking skills. In recent years, there has been a lot of insistence in investing more time and effort in STEM for both primary school and tertiary education. This aims to provide students with investments regarding skills and intellect, which include:
- Creating employees and workers in the long run, who possess technological knowledge who can create, design, operate and support continuous technological innovations regardless of how complex it is.
- Form citizens who have an efficient literate grip on Science and Technology that can understand, examine, respond and make improvements in the world around them.
- Having teachers and educators that can teach STEM knowledge, subjects and skills which are integrated, inspiring and fun to learn.
- Encourage scientists, engineers and digital specialists who give birth to advancements in Technology, that contribute to the country’s economy and, in the long run, help solve the problems the world is facing.
STEM Education Contemporary Aspects
Since the term STEM refers to the four fields of Science, Technology, Engineering and Mathematics, it is essential to have an understanding of each subject’s definition.
It is the systematic study of nature and behavior of the physical and material universe around us, using means of observation, measurements and experimentations. It also involves the formulation of laws to describe facts in general terms.
The branch of knowledge that centers on the creation and use of technical means and their interrelation with life, society and environment. It involves and elaborates on subjects including industrial arts, engineering, applied Science and pure Science.
It is the art or science of applying the knowledge of pure sciences, such as physics and chemistry to practical life. This involves the construction of engines, bridges, building etc.
A group of related sciences involving geometry, algebra and calculus, concerning the study of numbers, shape, space, quantity and their interrelationships by using a specialized notation.
These definitions may appear limited, but in the broad context of things, they carry more depth and subjectivity. Currently, Science and Mathematics, dominate the STEM education field, as they are the most mainstream of the subjects. This comes at the cost of Engineering and Technology, two subjects that continue to be overlooked and given lesser attention. There even has been criticism to the government for not funding Engineering and Technology the same as Science and Mathematics in schools.
The Problems Facing Engineering and Technology
Since only two subjects garner more attention than the other two, the fields of Engineering and Technology’s potential remains untapped. There are specific reasons for what causes this are:
- Science and Mathematics, in terms of comparison, are easier subjects to both teach and learn in comparison to Engineering and Technology. Since the first two are more mainstream, sometimes academics or educators focus on them more since they may provide better opportunities in the future.
- The nature of teaching Engineering and Technology isn’t as easy, and this can, at times, worry educators who need to go through a long, arduous process of having to learn technical matters and find a way to articulate them in an easier manner.
- There is a prevalent misconception that the field of Technology, focuses on computers and I.T., but that is not the case. Computers are merely one branch of the field, and there are plenty of others including, A.I., Internal circuiting, innovative machinery and many more.
- When there are too many academics or teachers invested in one specific group, they begin to create ‘education silos’. Since many lean towards Science, these groups create more appeal to the subjects and attract attention. This results in the other two fields to miss out since there aren’t many involved, and hence silos cannot be made.
Advantage of STEM Education Application
Many in the education field, have been insisting for a long time that STEM education needs to be taken more seriously in order to help the future generations be capable and innovative in the fields of Science and Technology. By bringing the fields together, children can create more fascinating tools and inventories that can help safeguard the world in the long term. All the great scientists that we know and love didn’t just focus on a specific topic: they always kept their minds flexible for other things as well. An example of this would be Albert Einstein, who although known for his knowledge in the Sciences, was still fond of playing music. Benefits that STEM provides are:
1. Encourages Ingenuity and Creativity:
Since the field of STEM focuses on bringing in new ideas and creates unique tools and machinery, it allows students to allow their creativity to seek new bounds. What they can envision can become a reality. Many recent developments, such as artificial intelligence were only possible because individuals had been able to invest in their own creativity and vision. If more people studied STEM, then the possibilities could be endless.
2. Fosters Resilience:
Every field requires a trial and error period, where a person will make many mistakes before getting it right. This helps the student to be able to pick themselves up after falling down. This even encourages them to develop a persistent, fighting spirit that will keep them determined in achieving their goals. STEM allows that to happen which creates more capable and strong innovators that can handle criticism and not let defeat get the better of them.
3. Allows Experimentation
In the specified fields of STEM, each and every subject cannot be done right in the first attempt. This requires risk-taking and experimentation, where after a series of attempts the needed result can be achieved. If something needs to be proven, then it must follow a ‘Try and See’ approach.
4. Promotes Teamwork
STEM field has no barriers or restriction when it comes to age, gender, academic qualifications etc. Many students who participate come from different backgrounds, and they are made to work together to accomplish a goal. This brings people together and allows the building of team spirit. If one person needs help, then another can provide help. This establishes trust and motivation. Any team that is motivated and united creates the best results.
5. Teaches Technological Information
The world of today is becoming more interdependent on Technology, and it is imperative for people to have a basic understanding of it. STEM teaches little children and older students not just the basics, but over time, the intricate details of Technological work. So whenever something new comes along, they will be able to use the device with ease, instead of being scared or insecure.
6. Encourages Problem Solving
When faced with a situation, a student needs to be able to assess, analyze and figure out a way to achieve results to his or her own favor. STEM education helps in this regard, as it teaches problem-solving. It lets students learn critical thinking which helps them highlight the problem and find a solution.
7. Teaches Adaption
One key trait needed in life is the ability to adapt. Those who are unable to change their ways tend to get left behind. STEM education helps students apply what they have learnt in real-life situations. So in case, a difficult situation was to occur, the student would know how to go about handling it.
With these benefits, we can see that STEM education is indeed beneficial for future generations. By integrating these fields, there is a lot to be gained in the long term. To make this possible, however, will require the inclusion and training of STEM educators.
We have emphasized on the importance of STEM subjects, but they will be of no use if there is no experienced tutor in the mentioned fields. Since integrating the subjects is not simple, a highly qualified tutor is needed. This is no easy task since most teachers are trained to be inclined towards one specific subject. Most High School Teachers that teach mathematics have little understanding of how to combine it with Technology. This limits their capacity to train the future generation.
If more investment will be made for training educators, then not only will the sidelined fields of STEM finally be given the attention they deserve, but it will encourage more students to participate as well. A teacher plays a major role in shaping the thinking and attitude a student has towards a particular subject. If they lack knowledge and training, this could demotivate a student altogether.
The overall goal still remains to be making citizens technologically literate. If the educators are up to the task, then a brighter future awaits.
As we can see there are a lot of benefits that can be achieved if STEM education is given priority and consideration. The days of specializing in one subject are no longer the norm. This prevalent approach of mastering one field will be outdated in the years to come, which can give many students a liability if they are not trained in how to amalgamate different subjects together.
With the world focusing more on technological improvement, it is imperative that people know how to handle certain devices in order to help the world become a better place. Limited knowledge will not help us achieve that. It is why many are insisting on governments and schools to spread further awareness regarding these subjects. The world does not move as slowly as it did a few generations ago. So if we are to work together and improve things, we need to start now, and STEM education can help us get there.