STEM Education

What is STEM?  

STEM is an acronym for a form of education that focuses on the four specific disciplines of science, technology, engineering and mathematics. The introduction of STEM as a national education strategy in Australia is evidence of the country’s recognition of the importance of fostering scientific and technological competence in schoolchildren. STEM’s cross-disciplinary approach begins with young children and includes the involvement of parents and community members whenever possible. As a result of the focus on STEM, employment is projected to increase in scientific and technical fields, thereby lending support to the strategy.  

What Are the Primary Goals of STEM Education?  

Like other educational initiatives, STEM education was designed with specific goals in mind. STEM initiatives are carried out with the following short-term and long-term goals in mind:  

  1. To make sure that students complete school with a strong working knowledge in science, technology, engineering and mathematics
  2. To inspire students to want to take more STEM classes in the future
  3. To prepare students for careers in STEM-related disciplines upon graduation
  4. Support STEM initiatives in schools
  5. Create a robust collection of evidence through effective reporting and data sharing

These goals are achieved by emphasizing the importance of core subject knowledge in STEM and encouraging schools to foster students’ curiosity about STEM. These tasks are not always easy, as STEM subjects can be particularly challenging for students, especially during the secondary school years.  

How Are Schools and the Community at Large Supporting STEM Initiatives?  

The most important way that schools and communities can support STEM initiatives is to create and nurture a culture that emphasizes the importance of STEM. While this task can seem overwhelming, there are specific steps that schools, parents and community leaders can take to create a culture that supports STEM:  

  1. First, recognize the need for a cooperative effort between schools, parents and the community
  2. Begin exposing students to STEM-related career options when students are very young
  3. Encourage all teachers to devote increased focus to mastering STEM subject matter
  4. Parents can build upon their children’s curiosity in STEM subjects by exposing them to STEM-related activities outside of school  

Identifying Opportunities for Improvement in STEM 

While the STEM educational culture has already produced some successes, the STEM ecosystem is in need of improvements. STEM deficits are present among certain student populations, outlining the need for additional attention. Below are four areas that require special attention and support from STEM proponents:  

  1. Attract more high quality educators to teach STEM classes
  2. Encourage students to exhibit higher levels of participation and engagement in STEM education opportunities
  3. Build additional partnerships between schools and community businesses with a STEM focus
  4. Focus additional efforts on increasing engagement among females and students from rural areas, students from lower socio-economic backgrounds

Achievement of these improvements requires the participation of businesses and community leaders. Successful examples are currently unfolding in Australia, with businesses such as IBM committing to participate in pilot projects affiliated with Newcomb Secondary College and Federation College.  

What Does STEM Mean for Children Now and in the Future?  

As a result of Australia’s increased focus on STEM in schools, statisticians predict that employment in scientific and technical services will increase by 14 percent over the next five years. The increase in health care related jobs is expected to grow approximately 20 percent within this same timeframe. These findings are exciting given the fact that STEM-related jobs play such a key role in innovation and Australia’s ability to compete with other countries in the areas of math and science. Additionally, the predicted increase in scientific and technical service employment lends to the evidence supporting STEM education as an educational strategy that produces measurable results.  

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