What is STEM education and why is it so popular?

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Businesses today need creative people with a broad vision, a love of innovation, and developed flexible skills. What does STEM have to do with it and how can this new approach to education solve the problem of lack of qualified personnel.

What is STEM?

Employees of the US National Science Foundation coined the acronym STEM (Science, Technology, Engineering, Math) in the early 2000s to refer to a new educational trend intended to address the lack of technical specialists in the country. Since then, STEM development has become part of American public policy and has spread around the world.

STEM education is available at leading universities in the UK, Switzerland, Germany, Singapore, Japan and others.

Disciplines are taught according to their relationship to each other. This allows problems to be viewed and solved more comprehensively and comprehensively, rather than piecemeal, relying on a single domain.

There is an ongoing debate among experts about what is and is not included in STEM. For example, the field of science sometimes includes medicine, psychology, and pharmaceuticals. It wasn’t until 2019 that architecture was recognized as a STEM specialty within engineering. There is also a lot of debate about whether economics, political science and social science should be included in STEM.

STEM values ​​and principles:

Interdisciplinarity. Combine disciplines into one system, find common ground.

Creativity and innovation. To solve modern problems, theoretical knowledge is not enough – you need to be able to create new methods, generate ideas and find ways to put them into practice.

Critical mind. The skills to take nothing for granted, to constantly verify and analyze information.

Put knowledge into practice. Learning material is better absorbed if new knowledge is immediately applied to solve applied problems.

Work project form. In many STEM majors, a large part of the curriculum consists of practices and projects. For example, in some programs, work on the degree is combined with an internship, during which students solve real cases from a partner company. Students gain relevant knowledge and experience, while companies gain new ideas to solve their tasks and potential employees.

Social and cultural barriers for women in STEM:

The growth in the number of women in technical professions has slowed in recent decades. In 1970, they held 8% of STEM jobs; by 1990, this figure had risen to 23%. But in 30 years, it has only increased by 2%. By 2020, only 25% of women will work in STEM professions.

Indeed, women face social and cultural barriers that make STEM careers less attractive.

Gender stereotypes start affecting women very early.
From the 2nd year, the girls tend to believe that they are not capable of maths. Throughout their school career, they come up against an underestimation of their abilities. This demotivates them and leads them to abandon the idea of ​​a STEM career. However, girls have even greater potential to succeed in technical fields. According to the National Assessment Educational Progress study, girls’ ability to solve engineering problems is 3% higher than that of boys.

Salary differential. The average salary for men in STEM is $90,000 per year, while women earn 26% less at $62,200 per year. This is mainly because they initially choose lower paying professions. For example, there are more nurses and pediatricians in medicine than surgeons and dentists.

Lack of models. “Girls have far fewer role models due to the low representation of female scientists in media and pop culture. There are also few female professors and research supervisors, which lowers future students’ confidence in their abilities,” say Nellie Burges and Jason Monaki, professional paper writers and education experts.

Why is STEM education in demand?

Many large companies focus primarily on digital technology and innovation. They seek to apply the achievements of BigData, artificial intelligence and machine learning in other fields – education, healthcare and banking. Specialists who understand technology and how it can be applied to solve specific tasks in different regions are the undisputed leaders in the job market.

Employers greatly value the skills students learn in STEM specialties. According to the World Economic Forum, the essential skills for modern businesses are integrated problem solving and critical and creative thinking.

The growing demand for STEM specialists from companies in various fields has led to a personnel crisis. The National Science Foundation suggests that 80% of available occupations over the next decade will require applicants to have math skills and technological knowledge.

Why should you choose STEM?

Do you have an aptitude for biology, chemistry, physics or programming? Of course, you should choose STEM first if you are interested in its disciplines.

Also, many majors require students to be confident in math and logic.

You are interested in new technologies. Technology is at the heart of STEM professions. You don’t just need to understand them, but know how to improve them and adapt them for a particular purpose. About the role of modern technologies, you can also read here.

You want more career prospects. Graduates of STEM professions are in demand in the labor market and receive higher salaries than representatives of other professions. If you want to earn a good living right out of college, STEM fields can help you do just that. Additionally, some majors have the option of getting a job at a partner company right after graduation.

You want a nationally valued profession. The urgent need for technical specialists encourages the federal government to support and develop STEM education. The United States, for example, grants extended visas to students in STEM fields, offers scholarships and develops university partnership programs with high-tech companies.

You like to learn. If you choose to pursue a career in STEM, you will need to study for a lifetime. Technical skills quickly become obsolete and professionals must retrain to actively adapt to the changing industry. According to a study by the National Research University Higher School of Economics, STEM specialists earn more at the start of their career. However, after a while, this figure begins to decline as rapidly as it did at the beginning.

You want to save the world. Unmanned rescue helicopters, bionic prostheses, stem cell-based cancer vaccine and drug development – ​​STEM inventions are saving the world. If you want to be a superhero, STEM education is your superpower.

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