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As Drew Faust once said, “higher education is the strongest, sturdiest ladder to increased socio-economic mobility.” The STEM Curriculum, which is the curriculum used in some schools in the United States, stands for science, technology, engineering and mathematics. The main goal of this system is to educate students in the four subjects listed above in a more thorough approach to improve the education received by the students and to have more compatible future leaders of the nation. Direct care of how this education curriculum works is of great importance as the economy relies on these students, as someday, they’re going to be the ones providing to the system. This type of responsibility is not an undemanding endeavor, and thus there is a necessity for these students to be greatly prepared in order to understand any of the four areas. Because of this, the question of how the STEM Education system will aid these young students towards greatness and eventually, how will this curriculum reflect improvement in our economy? The STEM Curriculum could be one of the biggest factors in the economic growth in the United States if changes of how it’s being implemented by the government, and used by teachers are made.
The main issue that is presented when the topic of the STEM Curriculum is discussed is the fact that there are not enough STEM workers in the United States, and this is blamed on different factors that are said to contribute to the lack of efficiency in the STEM education system, and on the lack of STEM workers there are. In the article, Refueling the U.S. Innovation Economy, Robert Atkinson introduces this subject when he presents that “there is clear evidence that the United States is consistently not able to produce enough of its own STEM workers in key fields” (pg. 6). Furthermore, he introduces a project entitled “STEM for all” which was created with the hope of improving the curriculum. The diverse approaches taken to pursue this project were “boosting K-12 STEM teacher quality, imposing more rigorous STEM standards, improving curriculum, and boosting awareness among students of the importance and attractiveness of STEM careers.” (Atkinson, pg. 7) Nonetheless, many professionals argued about just how much these approaches would work since the money that government, or schools, would have to pay in order to get them to be possible and work would be expensive. Better teachers with improved resumes and more adequate to teach in STEM areas are expensive, and the money that would be used to pay for them and for the materials that they would need is argued that could be better used in different areas.
Although it would be beneficial to educate as many students in STEM as possible, teachers are skeptical of a major change to the education system. Because the economy is constantly changing and evolving, the education system has to change with it in order to keep up. In the article, So, You Think You Know STEM? Anders Hedberg notes that “K-12 educators are justifiably weary of trends aimed at classroom transformation” because there are not enough “resources [that] are available for new activities” (pg. 146). There would have to be drastic changes in the education budget to allow for STEM education for students, and this could present a problem for the curriculum. However, if these changes can be implemented, students would become more well rounded learners better suited to enter the workforce. STEM “defines the everyday practice of task resolution using digital and mechanical tools to access information” (Hedberg, 147). Having even a basic knowledge of STEM subjects will help students problem solve and teach the skills that are necessary outside of the field. The economy would improve with the implementation of the STEM Curriculum, because the problem solving and task management skills that will be learned can lead to entrepreneurship and innovation in business. It’s necessary to have “effective collaboration between [the] education and workplace sectors” in order to have “domestic talent development”, meaning that schooling and the economy are interrelated and need to be treated as such (Hedberg, 148).
It is crucial that more emphasis is placed on STEM in school because STEM is a rapidly growing field. In the article, Pioneering a New Path for STEM Education , Clifton B. Vann IV writes that jobs related to STEM “will grow 70% faster than other jobs” and “2.4 million jobs will be created in STEM arenas during that time period” (pg. 31). Because of these predicted economy changes, students will need to be prepared differently. The only way to effectively prepare students for the workforce is to provide them with a thorough background in STEM. This will require teachers that are able to teach this curriculum, and there may be difficulty with transitioning students that are learning a different curriculum.
Job preparation is one of the largest benefits of a STEM education. The STEMersion program was put in place by many companies in order to teach other companies the importance and benefits of STEM. The point of the program is to have teachers learn “how science, technology, engineering and math are used in the workplace” and the immersion “would allow them to prepare students better for jobs of the 21st century” (Vann IV, 31). This type of program is important because it would give students a grasp of why they are learning what they are. Real world application is important in keeping students’ attention, and they would be absorbing more in turn. There is a large misconception that the United States doesn’t play a major role in manufacturing. However, this is not the case. Innovation is a key component of manufacturing, and the skills that students will learn with a STEM education will make them key players in an economy based on manufacturing.
Notwithstanding, there are diverse arguments that discuss the reasons as to why the STEM curriculum would not work for the economy of the United States. In his article Refueling the U.S. Innovation Economy, Robert Atkinson provides a very useful example in page eight, where he makes a music analogy and compares it to the STEM curriculum. He argues that “while music is important to society, not everyone needs to know how to play a musical instrument, and it would be a waste of societal resources to invest large amounts of money to ensure that every student has access to a Steinway piano and Juilliard-trained music teachers.” (Atkinson, pg.8) Not every student wants to study subjects related to STEM, just as not every student wants to study music. It would not be appropriate to spend additional money in a perfect STEM directed education system, if not every individual would benefit from it. Moreover, a country would not be as competitive in the market if the only professionals that it would have to offer are advanced primarily in STEM related fields. Meanwhile, other countries would offer a more diverse course of fields, focused on the arts, humanities, literature, among others. Many argue, that in order to be competitive in an economy, an individual has got to offer a variety of skills that could help businesses in diverse aspects, and focusing only on the STEM curriculum would not achieve that goal.
Nevertheless, the constant need for innovation drives the economy of the United States. Without innovation, the economy would decline because nothing new is being produced to inspire consumers. In the article, Education From Science to Engineering , Mark Guzdial notes that “the U.S. economy is at risk because innovation will suffer due to poor-quality science education” (pg. 37). Even at the top universities in the United States, STEM knowledge is lacking. Students at Yale University were tested with a problem known as the Rainfall Problem, and “in one study, only 14% of students in Yale’s CS1 could solve this problem correctly” (Guzdial, 38). This is an issue, because it shows that computer science is not being taught at the level that it should be to accommodate the United States’ growing economy. Because computers are so important to our everyday life, computer science is a crucial component of STEM and should be covered properly in education. The best way to teach students is to get them excited about learning, and show them that what they’re learning in school will be useful in the real world. It would be beneficial to teach computer science in a similar way that physics educators are starting to do. They use “interactive-engagement methods” which “move away from traditional lecture, and instead focus on engaging students” (Guzdial, 39). Engaged students will learn more effectively, and already be prepared when they enter the workforce.
Successful habits of entrepreneurs and business people can be taught through STEM training starting from a young age. Although there will be obstacles, such as underfunding and the need to completely renovate the education system, it will be worth it to have well rounded students that will be able to problem solve effectively. Problem solving is the root of manufacturing and innovation, and is more crucial to the economy than is currently recognized by the government. Overall, a good foundation in STEM can give students the tools to become the future leaders of the United States.
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