STEM schools are cropping up across the country, and parents are rushing to get their kids into these schools. We’ll explore the concept behind STEM, some of the schools dedicated to this mode of learning, and public schools that are incorporating STEM studies into their regular curriculum.
Education is an evolving process that consistently introduces new theories and practices in accordance with the most recent research available. One of the latest introductions into the world of education today is STEM education, which focuses on the core subjects of science, technology, engineering and mathematics. Is STEM offering a whole new approach to education that will bring American students into the 21st century, or is it merely another passing ebb and flow in the education tide? While only time will tell with certainty, there are definite reasons to take a closer look at this new approach that is sweeping across many school districts today.
What is STEM Education?
The process of STEM education is about much more than simply incorporating these four subjects into a core curriculum. The key to successful, effective STEM education is the actual integration of these disciplines into a single “meta-discipline.” According to a report at CurrTech Innovations, STEM can be defined as the “creation of a discipline based on the integration of other disciplinary knowledge into a new ‘whole’. This interdisciplinary bridging among discrete disciplines is now treated as an entity, known as ‘STEM’.”
A report at InTech explains that “a successful STEM education provides students with science, math, and engineering/technology in sequences that build upon each other and can be used with real-world applications.” The concept of STEM was first introduced by Judith A. Ramaley, the former director of the National Science Foundation’s education and human resources division. Since 2001, the acronym has been a regular part of the vocabulary used in the world of education.
Why is it Important Today?
Unfortunately, the country is not currently at the forefront in these areas of study. InTech reports that eighth-graders in the United States are being outperformed by students in Singapore, Chinese Taipei, Republic of Korea, Hong Kong SAR, Estonia, Japan, Hungary and Netherlands. In math, U.S. students are currently outperformed by students in Singapore, Republic of Korea, Hong Kong SAR, Chinese Taipei, Japan, Belgium, Netherlands, Estonia, Hungary, Malaysia, Latvia, Russian Federation, Slavic Republic and Australia.
Recent figures show that only 29 percent of high school graduates tested ready for higher education in science, and just 43 percent are considered prepared for college-level math courses. This has translated into fewer students majoring in fields of study that require a significant amount of math and science, which is slowing evolving into a shortage of skilled workers in these fields. If the trend continues, many predict there will be a significant employment shortage in important industries like science and engineering in the not-so-distant future.
President Obama has addressed this need directly by creating the Educate to Innovate campaign. This bipartisan campaign stresses studies in math and science through partnerships with businesses, universities, non-profit organizations, foundations and government agencies. The goal of the campaign is to raise America back into the forefront in these fields so the country can remain competitive in a global market throughout the next century.