Back to School: Why it's important to focus on STEM
When the lockdown hurled home-schooling at us, we were all in a state of shock. As the realities of juggling working-from-home and full-on schooling began to sink in, some of us rebelled. Some decided to go with the flow. Some dived right in with well charted-out timetables. Some succeeded. Some... not quite as much.
But what most of us parents can agree on is – we have a renewed respect for teachers and what they have been doing for our children!
We know it will be nothing short of an uphill climb for the teachers this autumn. They will have to compensate for any lost learning and get the children back into a routine again. They will need every ounce of support from us, especially when it comes to the ‘STEM’ subjects - science, tech, engineering and maths (If you want to get into a nuanced dinner party debate, please note that some of us prefer to use the acronym ‘STEAM’ - science, tech, engineering, art and maths. Potatoes, potatoes!) 🥔 =🥔
Why the focus on STEM? 👩🏽💻
The UK is among the many countries facing an acute skill shortage in STEM-related subjects. Tens of thousands of jobs in the sector go unfilled each year. And nearly 48% of STEM employers in the UK say they are forced to look abroad to find the right talent.
Contrary to common perception, STEM employers are no longer a niche bunch of research labs, pharmaceuticals or whichever industry springs to mind when you think of STEM careers. All of our industries are being disrupted by tech, from fashion, retail, consulting, financial - EVERYTHING. And whatever your kid wants to do, it’s almost certain that STEM skills will help them.
According to the STEM Skills Indicator, nearly nine in ten STEM businesses find it hard to recruit people with the right skill. If left unaddressed, the UK will fall behind other countries in terms of technological advancement – taking away our research and development credentials, and turning away foreign investment.
Moreover, with Brexit and COVID pushing the UK economy into one of the deepest recessions on record, the stakes have never been higher. A thriving science and technology sector is more crucial than ever to generate the kind of innovation that can spur economic growth.
Shaping problem-solvers 🙋🏽
Besides creating this much-needed talent pool, giving children a strong foundation in STEM from the primary level is also key to creating a generation of critical thinkers and problem-solvers. This new generation will be armed with the right life skills to evolve with the demands of the changing world.
When COVID caught the world off guard, some of the leaders who stood in stark contrast to the rest, were the politicians with a sound scientific background.
From the German Chancellor Angela Merkel, to KK Shylaja - a science teacher-turned-health minister from India, these leaders attribute their pragmatic approach, quick decision-making and composure under pressure to their scientific, evidence-based thinking.
Critical thinking is at the heart of leadership skills. It’s a skill that is actively integrated into the lesson plans of STEM subjects, but has value and meaning in a far greater context.
STEM lessons often combine science, tech, engineering or maths to teach a concept through a real-world problem - for example, looking at the effects of a water crisis or trying to figure out how to make public transport in cities more efficient.
This cross-curricular approach encourages students to apply their knowledge, experiment and find a solution for the problem at hand. It makes them more willing to try new paths, embrace new ways of doing things and helps to prepare them for the real world - regardless of the profession they choose to pursue.
Encouraging adaptability 👩🏽🔬
Many of the jobs our children will be asked to fill, do not exist today.
As Stephen De Angelis, President and CEO of the cognitive computing firm, Enterra Solution puts it, "Rather than feed children with the fish we catch, it's important to teach them how to fish – and they will feed themselves for a lifetime. The disciplines that do this the best are STEM-related." -
When children grasp the basic concepts of STEM, their curiosity and creativity will drive them to look problems in their face, learn more about their cause, come up with viable solutions, try, fail and try again – rather than complain and give up all too easily.
This mindset will be the most valuable asset to them in the future. It will help them adapt to the evolving world, and prompt them to find a new use for the skills they have in their kitty.
How can we help your child in their journey to STEM? 💪🏽
At BrightLittleLabs, we are on a mission to help children hone their critical thinking and coding skills through curriculum-based fiction and online activities. That’s how we came up with Agent Asha and the secret Children’s Spy Agency - to introduce these concepts to children in a language they understand. It’s quite simple really - old-fashioned adventure books and digital games!