Let’s face it: the world is in many respects a digital environment. Computers reign, and their dominance won’t disappear. Technology has played a crucial role throughout human civilization.
Its success in dominating our lives, in streamlining business and accelerating innovation, increases every generation. Any society that falls behind in science literacy and education will fall behind economically.
In the age of globalization, no country—especially a developed one—should take its technological advancements for granted. STEM education is critical to laying the foundations for the future.
What is STEM Education?
STEM stands for science, technology, engineering, and math. These are the four pillars of the modern world. Whether we realize it or not, they influence every facet of our lives. Innovation in technology isn’t limited to entertainment or household conveniences. It also extends to medicine, food cultivation, water filtration and purification, and infrastructure. These latter industries are responsible for improving or even extending our lives than any other.
Many people consider STEM education as something children build up to, without fully immersing themselves in it until college. While this is true of the past, it’s not necessarily true today. Any economy must now contend with the global economy. The STEM fields must now compete with countries throughout the world. In order to gain or maintain an edge in these fields, it’s important that they’re introduced to kids in K-12 schools.
Once seen as the bastion of technological innovation, the United States of America is falling behind. China’s investments in STEM fields now eclipse America’s. With such investment comes a need for specialists. As a result, the number of Chinese citizens with bachelor’s degrees in STEM now surpasses that of America.
STEM and the Jobs Market
The paucity of Americans with STEM degrees is also affecting the job market. By 2018, nearly a quarter of a million STEM jobs in America will remain vacant since there are not enough Americans with appropriate degrees to fill them.
This lack of potential employees might not only hamper industries, it could also take its toll on local economies, or even the national economy. Decreased economies could even lower a population’s confidence and self-esteem and give rise to poverty, crime, and drug and alcohol abuse.
Science and technology education can change things, however. Introducing STEM into K-12 curriculums can increase the chances of those students exposed early on pursing these fields in college. It can also inspire them and spark interest in fields that they might not otherwise have considered.
Starting STEM education early can change education. It can also ensure students develop the knowledge and passion to carry them throughout their school careers. By focusing on STEM, students can also acquire meaningful college degrees. Later in life, they could fill positions and help reignite fledgling industries.
Research has shown that it’s crucial to start STEM education earlier. It’s even more critical to start girls on the path to STEM even earlier than boys. Not only can early STEM education spur achievements, it can also create confidence in students who might otherwise feel mediocre or stuck in the middle.
This is another important element of STEM in schools: it not only imbues students with knowledge, it can also positively affect their confidence and self-esteem.
The Advantages of STEM
Some of the advantages of STEM in schools are that it can make the children more scientifically literate. It can also expose them to new and cutting edge technologies. Since online activities are so important in this day and age, it might expose students lower on the socio-economic ladder to technologies they wouldn’t otherwise experience.
Students these days, especially in America, are falling behind. Recent statistics show that 34% of students aren’t too familiar with STEM. Thirty-eight percent feel the STEM fields offered too much of a challenge for them. An astonishing 75% of American students aren’t even proficient in math.
These are sobering numbers. The best way to counter them is by introducing students to these concepts as early as possible. Instilling an interest, or even a passion, in STEM could alter how much students are willing to put into their school work.
Focusing on STEM in K-12 schools could also revolutionize how schools are taught or how kids learn. Many STEM fields aren’t strictly theoretical. They require a combination of book learning and a hands-on approach. Working on projects could engage students in ways reading from books or listening to lectures can’t.
It could create a shared experience among students and teachers as they cooperate and collaborate on projects. Instead of learning in passive ways, largely through reading and listening, STEM can allow students to learn actively.
Such an approach to learning—active instead of passive—might even instill a love of knowledge, and a desire to learn, that might otherwise be lost on some students. Early STEM education has the potential to reinvigorate lives—and even the world.