Arguably popularized by the Obama administration’s ‘Educate to Innovate’ campaign in 2009, STEM was first given its great limelight in efforts to encourage more American students to take up and excel in STEM related studies in order to fulfil the increasing demand of STEM related jobs in the future.
From partnering with the Singapore Science Centre (STEM Inc) to establishing a new university focusing mainly on STEM subjects (STUD), our tiny island has made great efforts to expose our local students to STEM in preparation for what Prime Minister Lee Hsien Loong believe to be “crucial to Singapore for the next 50 years old”.
So what is STEM?
STEM is a curriculum based on the concept of educating students in four specific disciplines – Science, Technology, Engineering and Math. Rather than targeting each individual subject on it’s on, STEM calls for an interdisciplinary approach to learning and allows for applied learning where students are given the opportunity to learn through hands on activities, practice and real life experiences.
As of 2018, there is an estimated of more than 8.65 million jobs in STEM related industries and according to the US Department of Statistics, STEM occupations have had a steady growth of 17% while other occupations are only growing at an average of 9.8%. Besides these future job prospects, are there other benefits to learning STEM?
Here are 3 benefits of engaging in STEM from young:
- Cultivate Algorithmic Thinking
Nothing happens by magic – even getting from point A to point B is the result of a sequence of steps, decisions and strategy. Algorithmic thinking, like it’s name suggests, is about discovering the algorithm that make things work rather than focusing on the belief that there will always only be one solution to any given problem. To cultivate algorithmic thinking is to accept that there is always a strategy to achieve anything and to allow the possibility for automation to take place.
While most people believe that algorithmic thinking is mostly applicable to programmers and engineers, algorithmic thinking is in fact closer than you think. If you run a google search and click onto one of the results, you would have experienced the product of algorithmic thinking. Learning to adapt algorithmic thinking in our lives has the potential to improve our capacity of logical thinking and reasoning as well as improve our ability to look for logical solutions and be prepared for logical reasonings when we need to.
- Expose to a Design Thinking Process
Yes, the end results is important but what is event more valuable in learning, is the process. Most STEM learning includes takes on a design methodology that focuses on a solution-based approach to tackling and solving problems. This methodology is called ‘Design Thinking’. The entire approach has five stages and starts off with the first stage: ‘Empathise’.
An approach that is adopted by high-profile, major corporations like Google. Apple and AirBnB, design thinking offers a means to adapt and tackle problems and changes in today’s complex and interconnected world. To adapt design thinking is to constantly challenge the process, think outside the box and be aware of the rapid changes in our surroundings and behaviour.
- Problem Solve through Deconstruction & Reconstruction
Deconstruction refers to the ability to break down ideas, challenges, processes, etc and reconstruction refers to the ability to build on them after they have been broken down. Similar to the concept of unlearn and relearn, deconstruction and reconstruction offers a flexible approach to our thoughts and problem solving skills.
In STEM, deconstruction allows for learning and understanding of how something is created through the process of breaking them down into smaller parts (not just physical materials but ideas too) and reconstruction allows for re-creation, repurposing and creative thinking to take place as we problem solve.
Singapore, and many other parts of the world, is moving towards a SMART nation through the introduction of technology. The potential of STEM learning goes way beyond the classroom and the demand for such workforce, it is also a way of life to cultivate a creative and flexible approach towards learning and problem solving as a whole.