There’s at least one thing your doctor, building engineer, and favorite app developer have in common: a strong background in STEM. In the past few years, you’ve probably heard a lot about the push for better STEM education in the U.S., but you might not be sure whether it’s really as important as everyone thinks — after all, there are plenty of non-STEM careers out there, right?
In this article, we’ll explore three reasons why STEM is more important than ever in 2020-21. But before we delve into that, let’s get clear on what STEM is.
What is STEM Education?
STEM stands for science, technology, engineering, and math. K-8 schools have traditionally focused on math and science, but in recent years, some schools have also been incorporating more technology and engineering lessons. STEM education areas are linked to almost every aspect of 21st-century life, from the phones, apps, and other forms of technology we use to fighting pandemics and climate disasters.
Even in elementary and middle school, STEM is about more than just crunching numbers and trying out basic science experiments. When schools work to integrate all aspects of STEM into their curriculum, children have the opportunity to see how what they learn relates to the real world and try out a completely different way of thinking. Technology lessons and projects provide unique opportunities to develop problem-solving, critical thinking, and creativity skills.
In an increasingly STEM-driven world, it’s more important than ever to ensure your child gets a quality STEM education. Here are a few reasons why:
Solving Contemporary Problems With STEM
Scientific, medical, and technological efforts have become more important than ever, especially given the challenges our world faces today.
We need well-educated scientists to figure out how to control pandemics and develop much-needed medicines. We need passionate cybersecurity professionals to keep our data and elections free from interference. We need creative engineers to come up with efficient clean energy solutions.
Problems like these require developing more STEM professionals who are fully equipped to tackle major challenges.
Preparing For a STEM Economy
STEM jobs, especially technology jobs, continue to be an important part of the economy. As a whole, STEM occupations offer higher wages and more projected employment growth over the next decade than non-STEM occupations.
Some STEM roles are in high demand even during a pandemic and economic turmoil. Here are just a few jobs that have increased in demand since February 2019:
- Biomedical Engineer
- Cybersecurity professional
- Systems Engineer
- Database Administrator
- Web Developer
Decreasing the Gender Gap In STEM
In the United States, women make up only 28% of the total STEM workforce, 28% of physical scientists, 24% of computer and information science workers, and 15% of engineers according to the National Science Foundation’s Science & Engineering Indicators Report. This isn’t the case everywhere!
In countries like Denmark, Norway, and Portugal, there are actually more women than men working as scientists and engineers, according to the World Economic Forum. And women make up the majority of researchers in several Asian and South American countries. So why aren’t more women in STEM roles in the United States?
Part of the problem may be that many children learn gender stereotypes about engineers, programmers, and other tech workers before they have the chance to really explore their interests in these fields. In addition, girls have fewer role models to inspire them in male-dominated fields. Just think about famous STEM figures: for every woman you can think of, like Marie Curie, you’ve probably heard of several men like Stephen Hawking, Bill Gates, Steve Jobs, and Neil deGrasse Tyson.
Giving all children opportunities to explore STEM from a young age could help diminish the gender gap in STEM fields. In addition, teaching children about inspiring women as well as men in STEM could give more children role models they connect with.
Give Your Child a Great STEM Education
STEM teaches students the building blocks they will one day need to create new medicines, design tomorrow’s buildings, develop efficient clean energy solutions, tackle weather-related challenges like wildfire prevention and hurricane damage control, and build apps that allow us to communicate with our friends and families.
To help your children prepare for a STEM-focused world, encourage them to try out related activities and learn about inspiring STEM figures they can look up to. You can read them age-appropriate books about STEM celebrities, encouraging them to try a game that teaches coding or even consider sending them to a school that excels in STEM.
Let’s work together to give children the opportunities they need to succeed!