According to the U. S. Department of Commerce, STEM occupations are growing at 17%, while other occupations are growing at 9.8%. STEM degree holders have a higher income even in non-STEM careers. Science, technology, engineering and mathematics workers play a key role in the sustained growth and stability of the U.S. economy, and are a critical component to helping the U.S. win the future. STEM education creates critical thinkers, increases science literacy, and enables the next generation of innovators. Innovation leads to new products and processes that sustain our economy. This innovation and science literacy depends on a solid knowledge base in the STEM areas. It is clear that most jobs of the future will require a basic understanding of math and science. Despite these compelling facts, mathematics and science scores on average among U.S. students are lagging behind other developing countries.
What is STEM?
STEM stands for science, technology, engineering, and mathematics. STEM is important because it pervades every part of our lives. Science is everywhere in the world around us. Technology is continuously expanding into every aspect of our lives. Engineering is the basic designs of roads and bridges, but also tackles the challenges of changing global weather and environmentally-friendly changes to our home. Mathematics is in every occupation, every activity we do in our lives. By exposing students to STEM and giving them opportunities to explore STEM-related concepts, they will develop a passion for it and hopefully pursue a job in a STEM field. A curriculum that is STEM-based has real-life situations to help the student learn. Programs like Engineering For Kids integrates multiple classes to provide opportunities to see how concepts relate to life in order to hopefully spark a passion for a future career in a STEM field. STEM activities provide hands-on and minds-on lessons for the student. Making math and science both fun and interesting helps the student to do much more than just learn.
“In the 21st century, scientific and technological innovations have become increasingly important as we face the benefits and challenges of both globalization and a knowledge-based economy. To succeed in this new information-based and highly technological society, students need to develop their capabilities in STEM to levels much beyond what was considered acceptable in the past.” (National Science Foundation)
Who benefits from STEM?
STEM education helps to bridge the ethnic and gender gaps sometimes found in math and science fields. Initiatives have been established to increase the roles of women and minorities in STEM-related fields. STEM education breaks the traditional gender roles. In order to compete in a global economy, STEM education and careers must be a national priority. Each and every decision made uses an aspect of STEM to understand the implications.
In conclusion, STEM education is critical to help the United States remain a world leader. If STEM education is not improved, the United States will continue to fall in world ranking with math and science scores and will not be able to maintain its global position. STEM education in school is important to spark an interest in pursuing a STEM career in students. However, teachers do not carry the whole burden of STEM education. Parents also must encourage their children to pursue STEM activities and increase awareness and interest at home and in extracurricular activities of the merits of STEM education.
Programs outside of school can help children to see that STEM is more than a class to finish. Having activities that show real-life implication of STEM can pull together the ideas presented in school and help to show how they benefit our society and even our world as a whole. Children can see that what they are learning now is pertinent to their future and the future of the whole world, creating an interest often lacking when learning new concepts that do not seem to carry real-world application. Engineering For Kids, for example, offers a suite of STEM enrichment programs for children ages 4 to 14. (http://engineeringforkids.com/article/02-02-2016_importanceofstem)