What is STEM? STEM stands for science, technology, engineering, and mathematics; a term used when addressing curriculum choices in schools, with the goal of improving competitiveness in the fields of science and technology.
Instead of teaching the four disciplines as disconnected subjects, STEM integrates them into a cohesive field of study based on real-world applications. Many educators are familiar with this acronym, but really, what is the importance of STEM?
The Importance of STEM Education
In the US, the acronym STEM began to be used in education to address the shortage of qualified candidates for high-tech jobs. Maintaining a student population that is well-versed in STEM is an important aspect of the public education agenda in the US.
By encouraging interest in the sciences as early as possible, the success of STEM education in schools can improve tremendously. By exposing students to STEM, hopefully, they will develop a passion for the sciences and pursue a STEM job in the future. A STEM-based curriculum encourages critical thinking – the objective analysis of facts in order to form a judgment.
Years from now, students who are going to pursue STEM careers may find solutions to problems that as of the moment, seem to be “unsolvable” – global warming, pollution, environmental degradation, viral diseases, cancer, and so on. They will develop “greener” technologies, create faster and more secure computer systems, develop new medicines, and find ways to improve the overall quality of life.
The United States National Academies expressed concern about the declining state of STEM education in the US. The top three recommendations to counteract this problem are the following:
- Increase the nation’s talent pool by improving K-12 education in the fields of science and mathematics
- Upgrade the skills of teachers through additional training in science, math, and technology
- Increase the number of students who are prepared to enter college and graduate with STEM degrees.
According to the National Science Foundation, scientific and technological innovations are becoming increasingly important as we face the challenges of globalization and knowledge-based economy. Students need to develop capabilities in science, technology, engineering, and mathematics to succeed in an information-based and highly technological society.
STEM includes subjects in the fields of computer and information technology, chemistry, physics, mathematical sciences, engineering, geosciences (geology, meteorology), astronomy, life sciences (biology, medicine), and social sciences (sociology, anthropology, psychology, history, economics).
Based on the US Bureau of Labor Statistics projections, the proportion of STEM careers by the year 2018 would be:
- Computing – 71%
- Engineering – 16%
- Physical sciences – 7%
- Life sciences – 4%
- Mathematics – 2%
According to the US Department of Commerce, yearly growth for STEM jobs is almost double when compared to non-STEM jobs. STEM-related jobs are growing at a rate of 17%, while non-STEM occupations are only growing at a rate of 9.8%. In addition, people who work in STEM-related occupations earn 26% more than non-STEM workers.
STEM education opens the door for students to become the next generation of movers and shakers. Students with strong foundation in STEM will go on to play a major role in our country’s development and global competitiveness. Because of this, teachers should continue upgrading their knowledge and skills to deliver the best STEM education possible.