By Tarun Bhalla
If you haven’t heard about STEM yet, either you’ve been living under a rock these past few years or been stuck on an island a la Tom Hanks in Castaway. STEM has permeated our lives in more ways than one with an ever-increasing awareness of what it encapsulates.
What is STEM?
STEM is a curriculum based on the idea of educating students in four specific disciplines – Science, Technology, Engineering and Mathematics. In this, the four subjects are integrated into a cohesive learning paradigm based on real-world applications through an interdisciplinary and applied approach.
Since science is rooted in varied aspects of everyday life, you will find examples of STEM in basic designs of bridges, while driving a car, when you pay your restaurant bill and have to calculate what amount to tip, how to tackle the challenge of global warming, etc.
Why STEM education?
Every era comes with its own set of challenges and we have to develop certain skills and abilities to overcome these. Take the challenges of the 21st century, for instance – digital divide, keeping pace with technology, technology & energy for development, growing inequality, future of work, etc, require children to learn about facts, develop critical thinking and an ability to solve real-world problems.
Benefits of STEM education
Through STEM education, we can hope to bridge the ethnic and gender divide permeating the math and science fields. Initiatives across the board are being implemented to help increase the women and minority presence in these fields. Let’s go through some of the benefits of STEM education:
Students are exposed to innovative ideas, which ignite the creative spark in them. This helps them look at problems in a different way, enabling them to think of outside-the-box solutions.
STEM education encourages experimentation, observing needs, developing ideas and taking risks. By doing this, children learn not to become disheartened by failures, understand that setbacks are a part of life and not to give up and try again.
Teaches teamwork and collaboration
By working as part of a group, children learn the value of collaboration and teamwork as individuals with different abilities and skills combine their talents.
Application of knowledge
STEM teaches how to apply scientific principles in real-world scenarios. Children are taught different concepts and subjects inspired by the real world.
Enhances problem-solving skills
In STEM education, students learn about solving problems by first analysing them and then working out how to solve them. This helps augment their problem-solving skills instilling an attitude of searching for solutions rather than becoming focused on problems.
Primes children for adoption of new technological innovations
Technology is advancing by leaps and bounds at an ever increasing rate. Kids are becoming tech savvy and comfortable with new forms of technology be it augmented reality or virtual reality. STEM education teaches kids to be proactive about technology.
How can STEM learning prepare students of tomorrow?
STEM enables students to become proactive, inquisitive, confident, learn not to be fazed by failures and inculcate and nurture a love for learning. Apart from this, it helps students:
STEM learning is skill-based and very hands-on as they require children to use their hands to gain specific kind of knowledge and develop particular skills. Woodcraft, CPR, saving local wildlife, coding, etc, are skills which stay with students for life and can be used by them during their education as well as later in life.
Though STEM subjects can appear to be daunting to some students, we should take measures to encourage them to challenge themselves. This will serve them once they join the workforce and have to come up with solutions to problems faced by them.
Play and learn
STEM education usually tries to combine learning with games to boost learning capacity and retention. There are several online resources available where students can learn different mathematical concepts through games. Older children can learn to code by developing games. Take Duolingo for instance, it teaches languages through an interactive app, designed to engage the learner based on the concept of gamification.
Suffice to say, STEM education will play a major role in our future and we should prepare our future generation to be at the forefront of this revolution.
(The writer is CEO & Founder, Avishkaar.)