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What Is STEM Education?

26 August 2020 By Richard Myhill

What does STEM mean?

STEM education, at its core, simply means educating students in four specific disciplines, namely, Science, Technology, Engineering, and Mathematics (collectively shortened as STEM). Instead of training students in any one of these domains, STEM combines all four in an interdisciplinary and applied approach, so as to better equip students to have a career and considering real-world applications.

STEM education in the classroom typically focus on project-based learning. Projects and activities conducted usually involve modern technology so as to accentuate the practical applications of science in the near future. Students get to apply the various domains of STEM in a context that helps them realize a connection between the classroom and the world around them.

Importance of STEM Education

In the coming years, the STEM sector is expected to be one of the largest employers in the world. We see new and innovative technologies being developed every day, and this number is only expected to increase in the coming years. Read more about the importance of STEM learning.

With significant advances in each of the STEM domains, new career prospects are popping up at a very fast pace. In recent years, there has been a shortage of well-trained STEM workforce in several parts of the world. While the demand for students trained in STEM programmes is increasing by the day, the number of students interested in pursuing a career in STEM is going down at an alarming pace.

For example, in the United Kingdom alone, there is the requirement to graduate at least 120,000 STEM majors every year just to meet the demand. Although STEM programmes in the UK have traditionally been well subscibed, the number of students focusing on these topics has gone down recently. This has called for major revamps in the education system, in order to inspire students to opt and excel in STEM subjects.

Students and educators must work together so that subjects are presented and understood in a manner that can be practiced in real-life.

Hands-on Learning in STEM

The educator, or the teacher, plays a very important role in student learning. For a student to gain and maintain interest in a STEM subject, it is necessary for the teacher to facilitate such a learning environment where the student understands the concepts and is able to apply them to real-life applications.

The teacher’s role is to:

  • Cover all the necessary material in the classroom.
  • Act as a knowledge medium between the student and the concepts being taught.
  • Act as an informed guide whenever the student is unsure of how to proceed with a problem or an assignment.

It is, therefore, of utmost importance for educators to stay constantly up-to-date with the current trends and advancements in STEM learning.

One effective way to enhance the students’ interest in STEM is to organize a number of field trips. Since STEM is an application-based curriculum, the principles taught here are applied in many scientific fields and major industries across the world.

Many organizations, especially in the UK, are well-known for the science camps and STEM summer schools they organize for enthusiastic STEM students.

These organizations work on a non-profit basis and have tie-ups with many renowned industries and state-of-the-art research facilities in and around the UK. They allow students to visit these places to gain hands-on experience with current STEM research.

The students also get to interact with scientists and industry professionals working in various fields of STEM. They get to explore a number of these fields, while also interact with other students, from all over the world, having similar interests.

This exercise helps them realize their passion and gain the confidence to cement their careers in the STEM sector.

Careers in STEM

The UK is one of the pioneers in STEM education and research. There is a very sophisticated and unique curriculum to pique the students’ curiosity in STEM subjects.

Looking for an opportunity of STEM learning in the UK, especially in one of their top-ranking schools or universities, would pretty much guarantee you a highly fruitful career in STEM.
According to a recent report, a bulk of the STEM jobs is going to be in:

  • Computing – 71%
  • Traditional Engineering – 16%
  • Physical sciences – 7%
  • Life sciences – 4%
  • Mathematics – 2%

A good number of STEM careers don’t even require higher education or a college degree, although, having a bachelor’s degree or equivalent would be a major advantage for the student.

A four-year degree can potentially amplify the salary of the student several times.
A few facts regarding STEM jobs with a bachelor’s degree requirement:

  • Their average starting salary for entry-level jobs is 26% higher than jobs in the non-STEM fields.
  • There are currently over 2.5 entry-level job postings, for every job posting in a non-STEM field.

These facts prove that STEM programmes, especially those studies with a four-year degree, can lead to a very successful career for most aspirants.

STEM is also one of the few sectors that works hard to be an equal opportunity employer, having a strong outlook for no discrimination based on gender, color, or ethnicity. Yet, a number of STEM fields have seen a continued lack of women and people of color as well as people from underrepresented populations.

Therefore, the need of the day is to modify the STEM curriculum so as to attract students from all segments. The curriculum changes should reflect as early as elementary school levels, so as to make a lasting impression in the students’ minds.

Summing Up

STEM learning is the way of the future. With humans being ever more dependent on technology, it is necessary to undertake substantial technological developments to meet the demand. This can only be performed sustainably with the help of STEM.

Where STEM proves to be better than traditional math and summer programmes is the blended learning environment and in showing students how the scientific method can be applied to everyday life. It teaches students to think computationally and focus on the real-world applications of problem-solving.

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