With technology becoming an all-pervading presence in every aspect of our lives, nations across the world are beginning to pay more attention to STEM education. For instance, the US government spends approximately $2 billion on educational programs that focus on STEM. Despite this, educators, school boards, policymakers, teachers, and recruiters are all clamouring for more spending on STEM apprenticeship and training opportunities, right from the K-12 levels. Why this demand? What is STEM, anyway?
Simply put, STEM stands for Science, Technology, Engineering, and Math. STEM education is an integrated approach to the teaching of these core subjects through practical applications in the real world.
The objective of such an integrated approach is to make STEM learning fun and interactive, where students get to tap into their creativity to apply classroom concepts to everyday life. For example, a sociology student who is conducting a survey on people’s online reading habits is also taught statistics. However, using the STEM approach, statistics is taught to the student in a manner that helps them effectively tabulate and derive meaning from the data they collect from their survey. This interdisciplinary approach not only expands students’ practical knowledge but also paves the way for intelligent collaborations to effectively make sense of this world and, possibly, the universe!
STEM Jobs Today
It is no surprise that STEM fields are the ones with the most demand for skilled employees. Needless to say, these are also the fields that offer high-paying jobs. The top 10 highest paying jobs in the US list medical professionals and IT or Marketing managers, with yearly incomes ranging between $200,000 and $126,000. Without a doubt, every single one of these professions require sound STEM knowledge, not necessarily in just one field, but more often, in an interdisciplinary capacity.
However, the reality is that our current education systems are not able to meet the demands of the increasingly STEM-focused industry needs. According to the US Department of Labor, nearly 2.5 million STEM–related job positions will remain unfilled due to this educational gap. While systemic reforms in education require policy-level changes that will take a lot of time for effective implementations, today’s students need support now!
STEM Education Support
STEM education is often demanding and requires hours of focused study. Students at the college level who are enrolled in STEM subjects face several challenges to meet the requirements of their coursework, especially as many also work part-time to pay for their education. Apart from attending classes regularly and focusing on their studies and lab work, these students also seek out additional support in terms of homework help.
While most students look for tutoring help, they are unable to afford good tutors or find tutoring to be time-consuming, especially busy students who are already juggling classes, a job, and other familial responsibilities. This is why many students find detailed explanations to scientific concepts and worked out textbook solutions quick and extremely helpful for their ongoing educational needs.
In addition to study help, STEM students are on the lookout for relevant internships and apprenticeships that can help them gain quotable experience after graduation. This experience can be invaluable for students to land a job or even to apply for Masters programs. Another often overlooked, but fast-growing, solution for helping students get ahead is the use of STEM toys to assist learning. In the past, experimenting with robotics, coding and engineering would have been prohibitively expensive and very complicated. Meaning for most students getting practical experience in these fields was out of reach. However, due to technological progression in fields like computing and the growth of interest in STEM, there are now tons of companies producing innovative high spec kits that teach all kinds of STEM skills. From building your own robots and then learning how to program them, to putting together your own computers and coding games, students now have affordable ways to develop these skills through interactive tasks that they simply didn’t have in the past.
The Way Ahead
The onus for recognizing the pressing need for STEM educational support is not only on educators but also on businesses in these fields, and of course, the government. Educators must find new avenues to collaborate with educational businesses to create user-friendly content that suits a student’s busy life. Simultaneously, businesses and STEM-related student organizations should work together to open up new avenues for internships. This will be a win-win solution for both students and organizations as graduating students would be job-ready because of this exposure. Finally, governments should focus more on spearheading integrated STEM education programs so that the entire nation can benefit from a well-prepared and educated youth.
Aileen Brent is a freelance STEM Activity Coordinator and a budding blogger. She works with various schools and communities to organize STEM activities for K-12 and undergraduate students, apart from tutoring part-time. She is passionate about working with young people. Visit her blog to learn more.