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  • Writer's pictureRafia Shabbir

Why Is STEM Education Important?

Updated: May 14

What is STEM?

STEM is an acronym for science, technology, engineering, and mathematics. The main goal of STEM education is to integrate all these four disciplines and teach them cohesively through project-based learning so that the students can apply the concepts learned in classroom to solve real-world problems.

Remember that STEM education is inherently different from traditional science and math education because under STEM curricula, school teachers use a blended approach to teach these four disciplines in the classroom which drives student engagement.

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The Importance of STEM Education

1. Tackling Real World Challenges Through Innovation

Technology is defining every aspect of our lives including education. The modern economy needs a workforce that is capable of tackling challenges which are affecting millions of people worldwide. Developing problem solving and creative skills among students is the cornerstone of STEM education. Through STEM education students can take an initiative and come up with out of the box solutions to solve complex problems. 

For example, you will need STEM skills to find a cure for the common and deadly diseases like Cancer. Similarly, we need mathematicians and engineers to develop robots that are capable of doing the tasks and take decisions like humans. To develop the seeds for the crop that will help combat malnutrition and hunger globally will require the combination of agricultural sciences and technical education.

2. STEM Careers

STEM education is important because the job industry needs employees who have a sound foundation of STEM skills. In this competitive world, industries are investing a hefty capital in research and development to stay relevant. Therefore, there are ample research opportunities for students and professionals in this field. Employees who have an academic background in STEM fields are a valuable asset for the company and help it to achieve a competitive edge. 

However, the employers are complaining the workforce is not skilled enough to fill the job positions which are in high demand. The number of jobs that require a STEM degree is growing and is expected to grow at an unprecedented pace in the next decade. However, the number of students majoring in the STEM fields is decreasing which shows our flawed education system and is a matter of concern for our colleges and universities.

If students are adequately supported by the colleges and universities in their journey of learning science and mathematics, then they are more likely to choose or stay in the STEM field. This support can be provided in terms of finances, professional career counselling services or individualized learning experiences that are essential for growth and development of students. Consequently, STEM graduates will emerge as innovators who will be proficient and skilled in problem solving and critical thinking skills.

Technology especially artificial intelligence is replacing many manual jobs and will continue to do so in the future. In these circumstances, STEM graduates will be more likely to find suitable jobs in the future than graduates of other fields. STEM education prepares students for future occupations in fields of robotics and artificial intelligence.

3. Develops Leadership Skills

Integrating STEM education in the school curricula will help students to discover their interests and aptitude and hence they can make the right decisions regarding the career pathways which they want to pursue in the future. Decision making and leadership skills are nurtured among the students studying the STEM subjects. Consequently, the student emerges as an innovator rather than a follower. 

How to Teach STEM in Class

1. Plan STEM Curricula for your Class

Fortunately, the nonprofit organization like Project Lead The Way (PLTW) is working to provide support services to the elementary, middle and high school teachers to promote STEM education in the United States. STEM students can benefit from hands-on-learning activities and engaging classroom environment through the implementation of the PLTW curriculum. Teacher professional development is the focal point of PLTW. The organization trains science teachers and provides professional development resources which helps them to teach the STEM subjects in class in an engaging manner. This training provided to teachers positively impact student achievement in the STEM fields.

PLTW has customized its curriculum for the elementary, middle and high school students. It offers a Launch curriculum for the elementary teachers and Gateway curriculum for middle school teachers. It offers three-course pathways – computer science education, engineering and biomedical science for high school students and allows the students to earn college credit in high school in these disciplines.

2. Use Project-Based Learning Approach to Teach STEM Subjects

Teachers need to be innovative and employ the latest teaching strategies to teach science, technology, engineering and math subjects. One such innovative teaching strategy for educators is the project-based learning approach which prepares the student for the afterschool life. This approach works by presenting a real-life problem to the student and encourage critical thinking to reach a viable solution.

3. Teach the STEM Subjects in a Fun Way

Teach mathematics and science courses in a fun and engaging way. Students usually are of the view that math is a boring subject and if they are not naturally good at it, they will never be able to ace it. Similarly, science teaching should be coupled with good educational research to know which teaching method is favored by students.

Teach important concepts by implementing fun science and math activities in the class. These activities will help broaden their knowledge and expertise in these subjects. Afterschool STEM program for talented and dynamic group of students is yet another way to enhance the students interest in math and science subjects.

4. Incorporate Art to Make it STEAM

The “A” in STEAM represents the arts. STEAM fields also include humanities, language, drama, music, and visual arts etc. besides the regular STEM subjects.  STEAM allows the students to learn scientific principles creatively while enhancing the 21st-century skills like problem-solving, decision making and leadership skills.

Teaching STEM subjects through artistic expressions is the best way to promote STEM interest among students. Nothing drives more engagement than teaching the STEM subjects through art. The examples of using art to teach STEAM subjects include:

  • changing classroom architecture as it is critical in promoting interest

  • taking inspiration from social and behavioral science while designing a classroom art for students

  • promoting interest in scientific, mathematical and technological topics through movies, conducting science fairs, dramas and other expression of arts

5. Summer Programs and Field Trips

Summer programs and field trips are the best ways to promote educational research among students. An occasional field trip to a local museum, park or beach is an ultimate way to foster interest in the concepts learned in the classroom. These beyond school activities have a regenerative effect on student’s learning and creativity.

6. Organizing STEM Competitions in Schools

Another way to teach STEM education is to organize annual competitions in schools, colleges and universities. Students can form groups or participate independently in these contests. Give real-world challenges to the students and ask them to come up with innovative solutions.

7. Design Thinking in Schools

The five steps of design thinking or human-centric approach are empathize, define, ideate, prototype, and test. It is basically an inquiry based approach that starts with empathizing for those who are facing a particular problem. This approach enables the students to work collaboratively and value the opinion of others before reaching the final conclusion.

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