Parash Agarwal provides a concise overview of the past, present and future of STEM.
Science and technology are increasingly having importance to our daily life. What was once considered to be imaginary is now a reality by the virtue of mankind’s achievement in science. Have you ever imagined how the world would have been without Science and Technology? It is very difficult to imagine so. If a man of 17th or 18th century could visit us he would think of electricity to be a magical power.
We often hear educators using the acronym STEM. So what is STEM? Why is there hype about it?
Curriculum which is based on educating students in four specific streams- Science, Technology, Engineering, and Mathematics is termed as STEM. STEM education integrates the concepts of STEM subjects which are usually taught as separate and it emphasizes on its application of knowledge to real life situations. This is done so because these skills and knowledge are not only essential for the success of the students but also because these fields are deeply interrelated in real world. STEM education plays a vital role in equipping young students with the skills needed to participate and contribute to the society.
Contemporary STEM originated in the 1990s at the National Science Foundation (NSF) USA as an acronym for Science, Technology, Engineering and Mathematics. The first acronym proposed was SMET representing the same disciplines but it was later proposed to be changed to STEM.
Why STEM Careers?
UK’s science foundation is very good, with cutting edge research base, world class universities, developing and attracting the world’s brightest minds, we are second in the world when ranked in the number of Nobel prizes despite containing only 1% of the world’s population. Science is one of the clear comparative advantage in the global race and hence for UKs prosperity to continue there is a need for more STEM based skills. Science and innovations is the key to winning future because innovation leads to new products and processes which in turn sustain our economy.
As per the research carried out by the Confederation of British Industry nearly 39% of all firms requiring employees with STEM skills and knowledge, currently have difficulties recruiting them at all levels of expertise, from apprentices to post-graduates. Also according to the report by Social Market Foundation, UK needs to educate at least 10,000 STEM graduate a year just to maintain its current industrial position. These data clearly state out as to why STEM is the best career option for our current and future generation of students and a key to their wise decision. Apart from secured professional future, students with STEM skills can also make vital contributions to solving many of the big problems faced by society these days. Global warming, cancer, third world hunger and disappearing habitats are some of these issues threatening our society today and STEM is helping us solve them. The typical stereotype of a geek in lab coat performing experiments cannot represent today’s STEM group. In fact the career opportunities for them are more diverse than any other sector. Their work is both challenging as well as fun- and hence they love going to their work every day because they know exactly how their work is having an impact in the real world scenario.
Upon understanding the importance of STEM education in UK, there are many initiatives taken by the government to engage public involvement in STEM. Some of these are:
Funding and organizing science in school. This is done through organizations like STEMNET which is set to inspire young people to take an interest in STEM subjects.
Organizing events like the British Science Festival, British Science week where people come together to celebrate the latest development in science and engage in open discussion about the issues that affect our culture and society.
Funding the work of four Independent national academies:
Apart from government involvement there needs to be an increased commitment from the private sector which support and understand the need for STEM education for our future. It is STEM education that creates a pipeline of future innovators that will make our country move forward. Making it our priority is important for our nation’s short term and long term goals. We need to encourage current as well as future generation of students to understand and embrace the technology that affect our everyday life. Making these subjects, interesting and, “fun to learn” will help us sow a seed of interest in their minds and inspire them to pursue these interesting and challenging career opportunities.