STEM does not simply refer to teaching of those disciplines, but also looks at a different approach in the way they are taught. STEM focuses on creating an environment where students can solve real-world problems using their creativity.
With the topic of STEM (Science, Technology, Engineering, and Mathematics) gaining a lot of traction globally of late, we thought this would be a good opportunity to take a look into the initiative and the explore how this will affect the education industry.
What is STEM?
STEM is a global initiative where countries such as the USA, Canada, Australia, Turkey, Singapore and more developing programs to support STEM learning. The topic of STEM (in the sense of curriculum) first came to light in the early 2000s where the National Science Foundation in the US were creating curricula for the disciplines of science, technology, engineering, and maths. At this time, the acronym was SMET but Judith A. Ramaley, who was the assistant director for education and human resources at the time, didn’t like the sound of SMET so she changed it to the acronym we now all know as, STEM.
So why is STEM such an important topic? It has become apparent in our fast paced society that the future requires more skills and knowledge in the STEM disciplines to cope with our rapid technologically advancing economy. There is becoming an increasing demand for workers who are creative problem solvers using new and innovative technologies. Young Canadians in the education system are currently not gaining the STEM skills needed for the future economy and employers are finding it hard to locate candidates with the relevant expertise to fill their STEM related roles. This demand is only going to increase at an exponential rate.
“THE GLOBAL ECONOMY IS CHANGING. NEW TECHNOLOGIES AND SMART COMPANIES LEAD. NEW INDUSTRIES AND NEW SOURCES OF WEALTH ARE EMERGING. NEW SKILLS ARE REQUIRED FOR WORKERS AT ALL LEVELS… AT THE CORE OF ALMOST EVERY AGENDA IS A FOCUS ON STEM: SCIENCE, TECHNOLOGY, ENGINEERING AND MATHEMATICS.”
-Professor Ian Chubb AC I Chief Scientist (23/05/2011 to 22/01/2016).
STEM does not simply refer to teaching of those disciplines, but also looks at a different approach in the way they are taught. STEM focuses on creating an environment where students can solve real-world problems using their creativity. It takes the focus off the traditional style of education and looks at a new approach where students are able to explore the subject with the same thinking that will be required in our future economy. You cannot automate creativity which is why it is paramount that we grasp this concept and work towards future-proofing the next generation workforce.
STEM in Canada
While the STEM movement emerged from the US, Canada adopted the initiative and began developing programs to invest in Canada’s educational future in STEM. It was deemed an integral part of the overall economic strategy and required we act as a matter of urgency. Research is now indicating that as much as 75% of the fastest growing occupations now require STEM related skills and knowledge.
In 2015, the Expert Panel on STEM Skills for the Future, chaired by former Bank of Canada governor David Dodge, released a comprehensive report noting that “STEM skills are central to a variety of education and job opportunities” and that “investments in STEM literacy are crucial for developing a skilled society that is prepared to respond to an uncertain future.”
The Canadian federal government has set up 2 key programs called Promo-Science and Let’s Talk Science and in it’s 2017 budget, proposed new funding to help Canadians prepare for the economy of tomorrow by promoting the development of science, technology, engineering and mathematics (STEM) skills and digital literacy, particularly for women, girls and underrepresented groups.
We are also seeing provincial governments releasing plans and strategies on how they will accommodate STEM in education. For example, in Sept 2016, the BC Ministry of Education, released a designed inquiry-based curriculum based on a common 21st century learning framework. This approach emphasizes a more student-initiated, self-directed, inquiry-based learning model. Teachers have been experimenting with draft versions and providing input over the past year.
The Future of STEM
There’s no doubt about it, the world is changing at a rapid rate. Canada’s economic future depends on having as many workers as possible who can think critically, make decisions and solve problems.
We will inevitably see drastic changes in our education and training system over the next decade. New technologies are beginning to make their way into the classroom to provide better learning experiences. We see new types of facilities being built to solely accommodate STEM learning which will be notably different to any type of facility we have seen in the past. STEM will be more and more integrated into our school systems and we may even see incentives come into play for students to pursue further STEM studies. It is difficult to imagine a world in 10 years time, especially when you realize that the iPhone didn’t even exist 10 years ago! What we know for sure is that huge changes will be taking place in response to the STEM movement, especially in the education system. It’s important that we embrace this change so that together, we can create a better future for everyone.