At SchoolAngela Stone
Should STEM Education be a part of education standards?

According to statistics from the U. S. Department of Labor Statistics, STEM occupations show a 10% growth while other sectors are only growing at 7.5%. 

Science, technology, engineering, and mathematics (STEM) professionals play a vital role in sustaining the growth and stability of the economy. In the long run, STEM education fosters critical thinkers, improves science literacy, and empowers a generation of innovators.

Innovation and adequate literacy in science depend on the knowledge base in STEM disciplines. Considering the advancements in science, most future jobs will require a thorough understanding of science and math.

In this blog, we’ll cover what STEM education is and why it’s important, the benefits for students who learn STEM, as well as the drawbacks of the STEM model, to better understand how STEM could integrate into standard education or core classes.

What is STEM education and why is it important?

STEM is vital because it affects almost all parts of our lives. Science is everywhere around us, and technology is now expanding into virtually every aspect of life and business, including cybersecurity. On the other hand, mathematics is vital in every occupation and all activities we perform.

By offering students the opportunity to interact with STEM early enough, they will explore the concepts and hopefully develop a passion for the STEM field. A STEM-based curriculum has various lessons and real-life situations that push students to learn. Most STEM activities provide different hands-on lessons for every student, thus making science and math both fun and interesting for the students.

Why is STEM education important today?

According to the National Science Foundation, 80% of the jobs that will be available in the next decade will require science and math. In addition, forecasts by the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics show that 15 out of 20 fastest-growing sectors require significant science and math knowledge. In order to produce competent workers in these fields and maintain a cutting edge in science and technology, STEM is necessary.

However, most countries are not currently keen on these areas of study. For instance, in mathematics, most U.S. students are outperformed by their peers in Korea, Singapore, Hong Kong, China, Japan, Estonia, Belgium, Hungary, Netherlands, Malaysia, Russia, Latvia, Russian Federation, and Australia.

According to a recent study, only 29% of New York high school students were ready for higher education courses focused on science, while just 43% were ready for college-level math disciplines. The tendency has resulted in fewer students selecting the fields of study that often require a thorough understanding of math and science. In turn, this slows down innovation and culminates in an acute shortage of talented professionals in these fields. If this trend continues, it's highly likely that a significant employment shortage will occur in vital industries like engineering and science.

The Benefits of STEM Education

Besides the various benefits that STEM provides to the national workforce, there are other benefits that graduates from STEM programs enjoy and may include:

  • Fosters independent innovation skills
  • Promoting equality in education
  • Helps STEM students hone critical thinking skills
  • Facilitates in-depth subject exploration

Additionally, students graduating from STEM programs tend to be better prepared for a rigorous college curriculum that can jumpstart them on lucrative careers in the fields of engineering and science. 

Potential Drawbacks of the STEM Model

One of the biggest drawbacks of the current STEM model is that it lacks a clear-cut guideline that educators can follow to create custom STEM education models within specific schools. For it to be successful, the STEM model must strike a balance between technology and engineering concepts that are rooted in science and mathematics disciplines.

Nevertheless, most high school programs are highly departmentalized, leaving curriculum integration to the teachers handling those subjects. Therefore, if a teacher transfers or retires, the system is significantly disrupted and must be restarted when a new teacher fills the vacant position.

Similarly, STEM progress is pretty low at the elementary level since few teachers are adequately trained to teach these disciplines at the primary level. As a result, STEM education is not only disjointed but largely inconsistent throughout the country. This leaves students and parents unaware of the standard STEM education at their schools. Ultimately, it is imperative to set standards that govern STEM education to ensure consistency.

STEM education is vital for students to prepare them for the jobs market of the future. Most importantly, STEM education spurs real-world learning experiences that can help students become creative thinkers, innovators, technologists, collaborators, and problem solvers. With that in mind, the more accessible and inclusive we make STEM education for students of all ages, abilities, and backgrounds, the more opportunities open up for them in the future. 

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