STEM education

What is it and why does it matter?

STEM education

STEM is an acronym for Science, Technology, Engineering and Mathematics. So, in a sense, anyone taking a physics class would be part of STEM education. However, the idea behind it goes much further: it is an educational method that integrates the four subjects into a single cross-disciplinary program with an applied approach.

This sounds a bit too complicated, but it’s not. Simply put, students will learn the four STEM  subjects intertwined, instead of in isolation, and will use their knowledge to solve real world problems and challenges.

Why is STEM important?

Quite often we look at STEM disciplines as something reserved for scientists or engineers. But in reality STEM is part of our everyday life, our jobs or even our homes. Everything from hot water to airplanes to cell phones exist because of STEM.

It is key to involve kids in STEM education early on in an era where technical and digital skills are becoming so important. With STEM, children can learn how technology and science works, develop critical thinking and figure out solutions for real-world scenarios.

STEM in Belgium

Not many schools in Belgium have been able to transition into a STEM-based education. Most are still trying to adapt to its principles. However, it’s no easy feat to change an education paradigm, develop a curriculum, train teachers, provide facilities and buy new equipment.

Some international schools have made part of their strategy and vision to integrate STEM programs in their curriculum. Antwerp International School (AIS)  is an example of a school that believes that STEM deserves to be at the forefront of education. In their own words:

“We have an obligation to secure our students’ futures and to encourage and support those considering a STEM career, as well as students who have other interests, but require literacy in STEM to pursue their passions”.

As part of their vision, they are building a dedicated STEMzone, which includes facilities like collaborative spaces, material & digital workshops, labs and robotics and IT spaces.

Since March 2019, they have developed three interdisciplinary STEM units and partnered with industry experts to include their input on the program. There are also projects and activities that students can choose such as an investigation on crowdsource mapping or building an electric car.

What the future holds

In our technologically-oriented society STEM has a central role in solving the upcoming and current challenges we are facing. Accordingly, there is a high demand for STEM skills in the labour market now, but there is a short supply. As STEM-related workers are far too few, companies are paying very well for this scarce talent.

This situation will continue in the foreseeable future. By 2030, there will be an estimated  39% increase in STEM-related occupations in Europe, while those activities that focus on physical skills or require more basic cognitive skills will decrease by 28% due to automation.

Further reading

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