21st century life is one that is characterized by fast paced developments in technology, which influences every aspect of our lives. Therefore technological expertise is without doubt the most desirable skill for future careers. But apart from ensuring competence in STEM careers, STEM learning also ensures the development of certain 21st century life skills that are required by the growing generation to face the world. In the increasingly competitive world of this century, it is necessary that our children be equipped with the prowess to deal with the competition and meet the needs of the time. STEM education teaches these skills to students, leaving them ready and capable to face the world. Reasoning, systems thinking, decision making, critical thinking and problem solving are some of the most significant 21st century skills required by children. Critical thinking and problem solving are skills that students need to develop in need to be able to face the world outside the classroom.
The current educational practices in India have however not developed to meet the needs of today. The Indian education system does not focus on teaching children to solve real world problems and is not interdisciplinary in its approach. The rote learning practiced across India do not prepare children for the real world problems they have to face. Students graduating from schools are often left stumped at the problems they have to face in their careers. They do not understand the applications of what they have learned, and hence lag behind in the labor force. The spoon feeding system not only renders students incapable of thinking on their own, it crushes their creativity and analyzing prowess. This form of education does not guarantee the true understanding of concepts by students since it does not require true understanding. Here, it is the child’s ability to reproduce text that is measured, and not their learning. Hence, more and more Indian students are left handicapped at the global scenario they have to face upon graduation.
STEM education on the other hand, equips students with the skills they need to survive and excel in their lives. STEM is about using math and science to solve real-world challenges and problems. Through presentations, projects, videos, interactive diagrams and many more techniques, STEM learning gives students a genuine learning experience that is as similar as possible to real life experiences. It has been proven that an expertise in STEM subjects, especially math and science, does bring about good problem solving skills when dealt with properly. STEM education appeals to the children’s’ innate curiosity and hence brings out the passion within students for learning. Usually, students become passive learners because of the lifeless rote learning practiced, and the only development they have in problem solving is through word problems, which is no way near enough to develop proper skills. Through hands on learning practices like projects, students correlate their studies to their lives around them. They understand the relevance and significance of their studies in their everyday lives, and are also able to grasp the concepts more accurately. As a part of STEM projects and presentations, they are made to collect their own data, interpret it by themselves, analyze and draw conclusions and create solutions all on their own. They create their own questions, enhancing their thinking and analyzing abilities. Making questions require more understanding than answering given questions. In STEM curriculum, children are encouraged to do their own thinking and questioning and hence it benefits them much more than the current system. Communication with classmates, teammates and teachers are also encouraged, with team work being an important factor in the curriculum. This enhances their communication and presentation skills, which in the future is necessary for excelling in their careers. The teamwork also helps in developing necessary soft skills.
One can confidently say that teaching children how to think critically and solve problems is an excellent way to ensure their future success in life. The best way to do that is to provide them with a good foundation in science, technology, engineering, and mathematics. The subjects themselves encourage development of such skills, and combined with the correct techniques, it will surely benefit students to the maximum. So while other subjects like liberal arts are important too, a proper education based on STEM teaches students life-skills that other disciplines don’t. This can be expressed clearly through the words of Stephen F. Deangelis, a renowned educator: “Educating students in STEM subjects (if taught correctly) prepares students for life, regardless of the profession they choose to follow. Those subjects teach students how to think critically and how to solve problems — skills that can be used throughout life to help them get through tough times and take advantage of opportunities whenever they appear.” (“STEM Education: Why All the Fuss?,)
We at STEMCHAMP provide an activity based school curriculum which reinstate the practical skills of kids and helps them to realize their dreams and inventions and to turn out his illusions into reality.