Why Parents Should Know about STEM
STEM is a buzzword that’s been clamoring around in educational circles for a quite some time. STEM is an acronym that stands for science, technology, engineering, and math. Organizations like the World Economic Forum have consistently rated the quality of math and science education in the United States far behind that of other countries. There are several undeniable reasons that make this very bad news.
The argument you’ll hear from policy makers focuses on economics. We live in a global economy, and our workforce needs the right skills to compete. In today’s computer driven world, STEM represents the right skills. If America wants to be a nation of inventors and innovators, Americans have to have the education and training in the technologies that drive society.
That’s the political argument, but the more important argument to support STEM is much more basic. Education in STEM fields promotes problem solving and critical thinking. Schools have a more important job than giving students facts to memorize and showing them where punctuation should be placed. Schools should make students better thinkers.
Critical thinking and problem solving skills are at the heart of every STEM component. Science only exists to solve problems and answer questions. Technology, engineering, and mathematics also focus on the processes of thinking, and the strategies to solve problems, not just numbers or memorized formulas. Strong STEM education is necessary to keep us globally competitive, but we really need these skills just to be a truly educated society. Through 2024, STEM jobs will grow 16%, all other jobs 11%. (changetheequation.org)
We don’t have the luxury of waiting until kids enter college to expose them to STEM either. Teaching students STEM skills at an early age will gear them towards success throughout their lives. And there is a lot that schools can do, even elementary schools. Science and math are taught at every elementary school, at least to some degree, but those subjects need a greater focus. Many schools target reading, for good reasons and with great success. But even the NCTE (National Council of Teachers of English) defines literacy, in part, as “proficiency and fluency with the tools of technology.” This is a council of English teachers, and they are saying that understanding technology is a major part of basic literacy!
If elementary and middle schools cannot find a place for technology classes, then we must rely on other providers. There are several online sources available like scratch.mit.edu, code.org, khanacademy.org and codecademy.com. But don’t forget the benefits of group learning in an after school club or summer camp. Especially at young ages, the best learning happens in a collaborative environment where kids learn through play, competition and inspiration.
Of course we need scientists. We need computer programmers, engineers, and mathematicians. But we also just need people who can navigate the modern world. These people will be the critical thinkers and strong problem solvers that solid STEM education can create.