Why STEM? Science, technology, engineering, and mathematics seem to be mainstays of the education system- so why the seemingly sudden upsurge in interest in STEM education and careers?
I come from a music education background. Our advocacy efforts are generally divided into two schools of thought- the intrinsic and extrinsic benefits of music education. For example, I could say that learning an instrument helps a student to express his innate creativity, or I could make the argument that students who study music have higher SAT scores. The National Association for Music Education refers to this as Passion + Proof. Music educators can frequently find themselves having to defend and advocate for their subject, so a great deal of thought and research is invested in exploring benefits of all kinds.
STEM educators may not find themselves in a defensive position as often as music educators, but as interest in and funding for STEM subjects grow, it is important for students, parents, and educators to all explore the reasons for and benefits of these subjects. Why should an educator invest precious classroom time in STEM? Why should students be encouraged to look into STEM careers? Why should parents spend money on STEM field trips or summer camps? The answers can be divided in a manner similar to music education advocacy.
I find it helpful to think in terms of scope- some benefits are immediate and personal, affecting students’ learning and lives in the present and near future. One study states that, “After 6 years of initial college enrollment, STEM entrants generally did better than non-STEM entrants in terms of bachelor’s degree attainment and overall persistence.” Jobs increasingly demand skill in STEM domains.
Some benefits have a larger reach: the future of America’s position in the global economy, or “the need for a STEM-literate citizenry prepared to address the grand challenges of the 21st century.” No matter the slant of the argument, support for the field is widespread, and educators, parents, and students are discovering the benefits.
As you take the time to explore the following resources, think about why this issue is personally important to you. And know that in reading this, you have taken the first step toward STEM literacy and advocacy.
Bybee, Rodger. “What Is STEM Education?” Science.sciencemag.org. 27 Aug. 2010. Web. 17 Jan. 2016.
Chen, Xianglei. “Students Who Study Science, Technology, Engineering, and Mathematics (STEM) in Postsecondary Education.” Eric.ed.gov. National Center for Education Statistics, 1 July 2009. Web. 17 Jan. 2016.
“What to Say.” Nafme.org. National Association for Music Education. Web. 17 Jan. 2016.