Children and adolescents are frequently asked what they want to be when they grow up. What are the most common answers? Many young children tend to sway towards careers they consider to be the most “fun,” and hope to become singers, teachers, or even astronauts. While some of these dream jobs are admirable goals, you hardly ever hear children saying they want to become a civil engineer, financial advisor, chemist, or statistician.
These professions are necessary in society, yet the U.S. has seen a decline in its students pursuing these careers. In fact, it has been estimated that India and China produce five to nine times more engineers than the U.S. This of course leads to outsourcing jobs, which negatively affects the U.S. economy.
What can be done to combat this? Thomas Gaudreau, an educational leader in Rockford, Illinois, promotes the implementation of Science, Technology, Engineering, and Mathematics (STEM) educational programs.
What is STEM education?
Usually science, technology, engineering, and mathematics are taught as separate subjects or are added as smaller components of larger subjects like social sciences. STEM education groups these components together as similar disciplines and practices. Thomas Gaudreau says that while this method has become most popular in the U.S., it has been implemented all over the world and allows the U.S. to be competitive in STEM fields. STEM programs have also been a result of encouraging female students to become more interested in the STEM fields, thus promoting gender equality.
The educational programs blend subject theory with hands-on experience to prepare children with knowledge and skills that are imperative in our modern world. Children are taught to apply what they’ve learned to real-life situations that they will encounter in the future.
Benefits of STEM education
In addition to encouraging children to pursue STEM careers, there are many other benefits to registering your children in STEM programs. Most notably is the teaching of soft and transferable skills. Usually these skills are developed through a process of trial and error. STEM programs encourage the development of these skills early on. These skills include, but are not limited to communication, teamwork, conflict resolution, and problem-solving.
As a result of learning these skills and applying knowledge to real life, Thomas Gaudreau says that there is a strong possibility that children in STEM programs adopt a love and passion for learning. This encourages them to pursue higher education in the future and reach academic success. Not to mention that the knowledge obtained from STEM programs helps students prepare for college curriculum.
STEM also encourages students to stay current and knowledgeable of technology, which is continuously updated and improved upon. Traditionally, students that go on to pursue post-secondary degrees in STEM subjects will obtain higher-paying careers than students with degrees in other subjects.
STEM education has been criticized by some as being too linear-focused and discounting subjects like art, music, literature, and writing. Thomas Gaudreau, however, says that many students in STEM programs have also excelled in these subject areas and career paths because the program teaches students to think in different ways, encouraging students to be innovative and creative.
In addition to dedicated STEM programs, there are many ways that teachers can implement aspects of the method into existing curriculum. Thomas Gaudreau, who is an advocate for education, encourages you to do your own research and decide if STEM education is right for your child.