One of the biggest trends in education currently is developing STEM programs. That is, integrating the individual subjects of science, technology, engineering and math into singular curriculums. The idea being that this type of curriculum will help foster critical and creative thinking skills, and better prepare students for the real world. So the question is, will this trend turn out to be both beneficial and sustainable? Or is this just another trend that will go out with the tide?
The most important advantage of STEM is that employers, colleges, and teachers are on a united front when it comes to students needing to have these skills. It works very directly toward educating students to be not only employable but successful once they join the work force.
STEM curriculums generally focus on making students problem-solvers. Developing critical thinking skills and fostering creativity and curiosity. Students not only have to demonstrate knowledge, but defend it as well. Some schools and school districts are even going so far as to develop special programs for motivated students that allow them to interact with people currently working in STEM fields. These are real world connections that give students early exposure to a future in these fields.
So, what are the concerns with STEM? First, many teachers are arguing that the programs must be started early in order for students to have good enough foundations to build on. Basic math and science skills must be strong if students are to succeed and take the curriculum seriously. Many new programs just haven’t been thought through enough to provide these foundations. Some also worry that STEM curriculums can be elitist, especially considering those real world programs which are created especially for motivated/talented students. There can be less emphasis on helping all students in favor of helping the few. Speaking of emphasis, with STEM other crucial subjects are easily pushed aside. Foreign languages and even English skills have both cognitive and practical benefits, and yet will not be pushed as fervently. Finally, many educators worry that proven instructional methods are being disregarded for what is, in essence, a trend.
What do you think? Do the benefits of STEM outweigh the disadvantages? Let us know in the comments!