Early Career Researchers - the missing link for STEM diversity
From a century ago and now, a lot has evolved in the world. It has diversified so much and so quickly that it requires scientific know-how. Science has advanced splendidly, especially in the last couple of decades, and is opening up more opportunities for students to explore their thoughts and potential. STEM Education is one such evolution that has evolved to give importance to Science, Technology, Engineering, and Math as a field of study.
However, students’ interest in opting for subjects in the STEM fields has been minimal; hence, placing it under the underrepresented group. This goes without saying that the diversity in STEM fields of education is very minimal, which calls out for better innovative and inclusive techniques to increase the participation of women and minorities.
What is STEM Education, and Why do we need it?
STEM is the abbreviation of Science, Technology, Engineering, and Mathematics all of which encompass our everyday lives. Technology has become an integral part of our lives, and science is present globally in different modes. Engineering makes an important component for building anything, from material to non-material things, such as designing a road to manufacturing an automobile.
Moreover, although seemingly unapparent, mathematics still makes an important component of every occupation and field. From engineering to astronomy, technology to science research, mathematics lays its prominence everywhere.
Exposure to the arena of opportunities
While more and more students are opting for STEM fields of study, the overall participation is seemingly less as compared to other fields. Nowadays, students are exposed to STEM concepts at the preliminary level which makes them well acquainted with the STEM concepts and the opportunities it brings at an early stage
According to National Science Foundation (NSF), the present century requires more scientific know-how and technological innovations that would benefit us in facing the challenges of globalization with ease. Besides, it also gives room for the development of a knowledge-based economy wherein students develop capabilities in thinking beyond the past, learning from it, and innovating new opportunities.
STEM education welcomes students to a platform that lays the foundation of skills, as well as assists them in understanding an array of concepts that can help them grow across industries.
Why do we need STEM Education?
STEM helps bridge the gap, between ethnic groups and genders, especially, in the science and math fields. There have been more and more initiatives to increase the participation of women in STEM-related fields. Besides, the very core of building a global economy is scaling up the participation of women in scientific and technological fields.
The path to make a difference
Unemployment has always been an issue with a negative impact on the economy of a society. STEM education offers people skills that are necessary to tackle this global issue. It opens up opportunities by skilling people in several aspects and making them employable as well as creating employment opportunities. Furthermore, it renders learners an in-depth insight and understanding of the world through the prism of Science and Technology.
It increases research and critical thinking skills that prepare students to work in a technologically inventive and innovative environment.
Deciphering the field of STEM
Science provides people with a broader perspective of the world we are surrounded by. The physics, chemistry, and biological aspects that make up this world are best understood by the study of these sciences.
On another hand, technology instils in youth the capacity to broaden their horizon of thinking and be more inclined toward high-tech innovations.
Engineering enables students to increase their problem-solving skills and apply the skills and information in building new projects.
Whereas, Mathematics brings out the potential to analyze data, eliminate errors and assist in designing more scientific solutions.
In essence, STEM links all the disciplines together into a cohesive system, where each of them play important role in preparing future professionals in transforming our society into a scientific and innovative world.
Benefits of STEM Education
STEM in simple worlds transforms us into a futuristic world. It enables learners to acquire a mindset that builds a well-qualified workforce and teaches a team to collaborate and work together. It increases productivity and profitability.
Then how can we increase the participation of learners in the STEM field?
As per research, a lack of engagement by experts and career researchers affects the industry’s participation. The field exposes students to building effective communication and increasing experimental behaviour. Scientists and researchers offer a platform for discoveries. Technological experts provide gadgets that help in turning the team more effective.
Moreover, STEM allows people in a society to be more informed and take decisions that are within the horizon of discussed subject niche.
Now that we know how STEM benefits the population at large let us look at how we can drive the participation of learners in STEM fields to increase the diversity in STEM.
The NSF has enlisted the criterion using evidence-based strategies to increase overall inclusion and diversity in the STEM field. With this, they have proposed increasing participation in the following categories, which are:
Increasing financial support:
It aims to build the foundation and deal with the lack of STEM participation at the root level. Supporting colleges, students, and organizations such as ours to provide STEM learning as a platform will enable students to be more aware of more activities in this field and which would be less financially not taxing on them.
Encouraging students through professional and social support
Supporting students by making them socially aware and encouraging them to understand the importance of grasping vital knowledge in informal and/or formal settings is one aspect and making them understand the professional advantages and how it opens up more fields to explore and expand knowledge is another. All are achievable by helping and supporting young in connecting to the field of Science and Technology either as a vocation or chosen career path.
Working with professionals and early exposure to research helps develop and sustain interest when it comes to STEM careers and education.
One of the core reasons for lesser participation by women in the STEM field is the stereotypical mindset. For example, the stereotype of women not being good at mathematics has been the reason for fewer women in the STEM field. This calls for combating the confirming negative stereotypes which can alone increase the participation of every gender.
Gaining research experience
It is imperative to get acquainted with the field and gain some in-depth knowledge that will help develop and sustain interest pertaining to the STEM field. The very core of developing or instilling interest related to a particular field of study or career is gaining knowledge about the same.
Hence, early involvement in the field makes it possible to understand what you want to pursue. Do you find any scope of career development in the field, and how will it benefit you?
Most people tend to follow the career or educational path of those they look up to. Mentors play an imperative role in being the medium from which you can find a way. If a student cannot decide about STEM courses, then one-on-one career advice will help gain clarity of the path and the destination. It is safe to say that a mentorship role can never be over-emphasized.
It is necessary to develop an early interest and more refined thinking towards STEM, which can foster students in exploring the vast arena of the field. It is imperative to fuel the drive and motivation of creative problem solvers regardless of gender or ethnic background that would be trained and ready to deliver their knowledge to an ever needing world of scientific intelligence. Besides, diverse scientific thinking would only advance the world forward in a more evolved way of thinking ahead into the future that would be glorifying and diverse.