The Civic Benefit of STEM Education
Improvements in STEM
STEM (Science Technology Engineering & Math) education has been one of the focal points of school improvement efforts in the United States during the past 5 years. In response to the dearth of graduates in the STEM fields from colleges and universities, the federal government is working through the Committee on STEM Education (CoSTEM). They have established a national strategy along to promote STEM education in our nation’s PK – 12 schools. One of the major goals of this effort has been to develop student interest in the STEM fields. This increases the number of students who select STEM fields as their majors. These students ultimately graduate with degrees in STEM.
Without question, STEM education is one of the most critical issues facing our nation as we move into the 21st Century. Problems of famine, epidemic disease, declining natural resources, infrastructure, and advanced space exploration must be met by a capable STEM workforce. To create the interest in STEM, PK – 12 schools must provide rich, authentic experiences. These experiences will indoctrinate students in basic knowledge and principles while requiring them to study even further to satiate their thirst for inquiry.
Goals of STEM Education
The main goals of STEM education in the United States are very clear. However, we also have to ask ourselves, “By implementing a major emphasis in PK – 12 education in the United States, how will we impact the types of students that we are producing?” A recent article in the December 2014/January 2015 issue of Educational Leadership titled Show & Tell: A Video Column/STEM for Citizenship provides one answer to that question. The article’s authors, Doug Fisher and Nancy Frey submit that STEM education is beneficial because it will also produce better, more informed, citizens. Based on my many years of experience working in public schools, I must agree, Fisher & Frey (2014) are right! STEM education immerses students in critical thinking and applying concepts in real world contexts. These are the skills that employers covet.
No matter the profession, you have to have employees who can reason clearly using facts. They then apply their reasoning to familiar and novel circumstances to reach viable resolutions. Beyond the workforce, as Fisher & Frey alluded to, you have to citizens who are clear purposeful thinkers as well. These citizens can evaluate arguments on their merits and press their government representatives to do what’s best. In this scenario, we have the opportunity to create a better society for all. This is the true value of STEM education. This creates more informed, clear thinking citizens who will elevate our society as a whole.
Importance of STEM
To close, STEM is one of the most important initiatives of our time. The quality of STEM graduates that our country produces will impact our ability to remain competitive globally. In addition, STEM education has implications for our nation’s entire citizenry. The intellectual skills of critical thinking in real world contexts transcend all boundaries. They directly impact one’s ability to exercise citizenship rights. The ability to do what is best has to potential to elevate our society. That is the hidden but exciting value in STEM education!