STEM is a curriculum based on the idea of educating students in four specific disciplines — science, technology, engineering and mathematics — in an interdisciplinary and applied approach. Rather than teaching the four disciplines as separate and discrete subjects, STEM integrates them into a cohesive learning paradigm based on real-world.
Though the United States has historically been a leader in these fields, fewer students have been focusing on these topics recently. According to the U.S. Department of Education, only 16 percent of high school students are interested in a STEM career and have proven a proficiency in mathematics. Currently, nearly 28 percent of high school freshmen declare an interest in a STEM-related field, a department website says, but 57 percent of these students will lose interest by the time they graduate from high school.Why STEM is necessary?
“In the 21st century, scientific and technological innovations have become increasingly important as we face the benefits and challenges of both globalisation 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.
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.
Programmes outside of school can help children 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 programmes for children ages 4 to 14.Today, we are at the beginning of a Fourth Industrial Revolution. Developments in genetics, artificial intelligence, robotics, nanotechnology, 3D printing and biotechnology, to name just a few, are all building on and amplifying one another. This will lay the foundation for a revolution more comprehensive and all-encompassing than anything we have ever seen. Smart systems—homes, factories, farms, grids or cities—will help tackle problems ranging from supply chain management to climate change. The rise of the sharing economy will allow people to monetise everything from their empty house to their car.
Importance of Science, Technology, Engineering & Mathematics for future work
The STEM skilled people drive the nation’s innovation and competitiveness by generating new ideas, new companies and new industries. The STEM workers are also less likely to experience joblessness in comparison with their non-STEM counterparts. Science, technology, engineering and mathematics workers play a key role in the sustained growth and stability of the economy.
STEM education is also considered to be crucial as this is the age of innovation where problem solving, critical thinking and creativity are key to enable the students to become leaders of the future.
The STEM Skills
The skills of graduates and students of some developed nations are very standard and the students of other regions are lagging behind of them just because, STEM education is not given as top priority in most of the educational institutions in those regions.
The Skills Requirements for Future Works
As per the Future of Jobs Report-2016 of World Economic Forum, they expect strong employment growth across the Architecture and Engineering and Computer and Mathematical job families, a moderate decline in Manufacturing and Production roles and a significant decline in Office and Administrative roles. Other sizeable job families, such as Business and Financial Operations, Sales and Related and Construction and Extraction have a largely flat global employment outlook over the 2015–2020period.
According to a report by the Information Technology & Innovation Foundation, the number of STEM graduates in USA is expected to grow twice as fast by 2018.
Though the unemployment rate is in an increasing trend worldwide, most of the countries lack number of STEM skilled talents in comparison with the real need.
There were nearly 8.6 million STEM jobs in May 2015, representing 6.2 percent of U.S. employment. Computer occupations made up nearly 45 percent of STEM employment, and engineers made up an additional 19 percent. Mathematical science occupations and architects, surveyors, and cartographers combined made up less than 4 percent of STEM employment. The following graph represents the STEM employment by type of STEM occupation:
The key findings of the “STEM Jobs: 2017 Update” of Economics & Statistics Administration, United States Department of Commerce are as follows:
► In 2015, there were 9.0 million STEM workers in the United States. About 6.1 percent of all workers are in STEM occupations, up from 5.5 percent just five years earlier.
► Employment in STEM occupations grew much faster than employment in non-STEM occupations over the last decade (24.4 percent versus 4.0 percent, respectively), and STEM occupations are projected to grow by 8.9 percent from 2014 to 2024, compared to 6.4 percent growth for non- STEM occupations.
► STEM workers command higher wages, earning 29 percent more than their non-STEM counterparts in 2015. This pay premium has increased since our previous report, which found a STEM wage advantage of 26 percent in 2010.
► Nearly three-quarters of STEM workers have at least a college degree, compared to just over one-third of non-STEM workers.
► STEM degree holders enjoy higher earnings, regardless of whether they work in STEM or non- STEM occupations. A STEM degree holder can expect an earnings premium of 12 percent over non-STEM degree holders, holding all other factors constant.
STEM education needs to be given a top priority
To benefit from the changes of tomorrow, we need to be forward-thinking in the way we educate students of today. What we teach our children – and the way we teach our children – will determine the skills they acquire for life.
Evolutions in technology are influencing the global job markets. STEM-related jobs are growing at 1.5 times the rate of alternative career sectors. And this is set to rise.
The importance of STEM is acknowledged globally. America, for example, has a committee on STEM Education (CoSTEM) to support and fulfill the growing demand of high-tech workers in certain career fields.
It now becomes clear that most jobs of the future will require a basic understanding of math and science. For the inclusive development of Bangladesh and according to its perspective plans like Vision 2021, 7th Five Year Plan, the country requires scientists and innovators where STEM education can facilitate the process. Our policy makers, academicians and other stakeholders should think on this domain of education, vigorously.
The writer is a Senior Assistant Director (Research), Daffodil International University