The STEM Global Movement
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 was 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 Australians 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 | Chief Scientist of Australia (23/05/2011 to 22/01/2016).
STEM does not simply refer to the 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 Australia
While the STEM movement emerged from the US, Australia adopted the initiative and began developing programs to invest in Australia’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 December of 2015, the Education Council who is a representative of the Australian Government released a strategy called the National STEM School Education Strategy. This strategy was endorsed by Australian Education Ministers and was the first real strategy Australia had released as a nation. The strategy set out to achieve two main goals:
- To ensure all students finish school with strong foundational knowledge in STEM and related skills
- To ensure that students are inspired to take on more challenging STEM subjects
With these goals in mind, the strategy identified five areas requiring national action in the view of achieving the greatest leverage in our education system.
- Increase student STEM ability, engagement, participation and aspiration
- Increasing teacher capacity and STEM teaching quality
- Supporting STEM education opportunities within school systems
- Facilitating effective partnerships with tertiary education providers, business and industry
- Building a strong evidence base
A copy of the report can be found here.
We are also now beginning to see state governments releasing plans and strategies on how they will accommodate STEM in education. Victoria, for example, has released a state plan for STEM which will see over $300 million invested into STEM initiatives that range from new tech schools through to professional learning programs. Over the next 3 years, the South Australian Government will also invest $250 million into schools for refurbishments and new facilities as part of STEM Works. We are seeing other states and territories adopting similar plans and strategies.
The Future of STEM
There’s no doubt about it, the world is changing at a rapid rate. The need for change is becoming a pressing issue and it’s important that we adopt in order to not only keep up with the rest of the world but lead it.
We will inevitably see drastic changes in our education and training system over the next decade. New technologies will begin to make their way into the classroom to provide better learning experiences. We will 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 realise 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.