Helping students of future generations through science, technology, engineering, and mathematics to grow in a fast-paced and innovative economy.
Lately, STEM education, the teaching and learning of science, technology, engineering, and mathematics, has become a national priority. This focus has, in part, been driven by considerations over international events, dating back to Sputnik and therefore the space race.
The focus is also fuelled by data showing that young people are not graduating with the skills needed to succeed in a rapidly-evolving, technologically-driven workforce. A third reason for the focus, one that is especially significant while thinking about the schooling of younger students, is the role of STEM in shaping our modern life.
From how food is developed and medical services delivered to the manners in which we transport to different places, save and spend cash, burn-through and assess data, and connect with those we love, STEM is transforming our regular day-to-day existence.
To allay the need of STEM learning and understand how educational institutions are taking forward the role of exposing students to the necessary STEM experience, the Department for Employment and Learning (DEL) and the Department of Education (DE) of the government of United Kingdom formed a commission for the review of the STEM strategy being employed in the country.
The commission published a report considering the education system in the setting of a STEM route and identified the limitations and losses at each phase in this route. In doing so, it identified a number of issues and challenges and put forward recommendations grouped under 4 major imperatives:
- Imperative 1 – Business must take the lead in promoting STEM.
- Imperative 2 – The key constraints in the STEM route must be lessened.
- Imperative 3 – The need for increased flexibility in the provision of STEM learning.
- Imperative 4 – Government must better coordinate its support for STEM.
The commission noted that while over 40% of the students at higher educational institutions were enrolled in STEM-related courses, only 18% of them qualified with graduate or post-graduate level of STEM knowledge. The commission’s recommendations aimed at increasing this proportion to 25%-30% by 2020.
The STEM strategy put forward by the government is being followed to this day to implement proper STEM learning in the country.
Current STEM Activity
The commission also formulated a list of activities that were already being taken forward in the STEM fields by multiple organisations. The list also discussed the impact of such work in implementing better STEM education for the students. A brief discussion on the important points in the list is provided as follows:
- Revised curriculum
By giving a lot more freedom to educators to explore STEM learning with students in a fascinating and imaginative manner, it is expected that more students will be encouraged to pursue careers in STEM.
- The Entitlement Framework
Students were given a more equitable opportunity to follow a broader and more balanced range of courses, supported through high-quality teaching and with improved careers guidance. This allowed more students to access and succeed in areas of interest, including STEM-related areas.
- STEM competitions and exhibitions
This secured increased opportunities for students to participate in competitions, exhibitions and other events designed to increase focus on core STEM subjects.
- STEM-focused organisations
Provided support to a number of organisations to ensure that they can link schools with business (including STEM) and cover topics such as employability, enterprise, and learning for life and work.
- Resources to support teachers and students in STEM subjects
Improvement in the range and quality of resources available to schools and universities, high-quality teaching and learning were made possible, making STEM education more attractive to students.
- Promoting the uptake of STEM subjects post the age of 16
Increased the availability of qualifications that can provide young people with the recognition that their progress merits. This ensured that students have access to a broader, more balanced range of courses that can excite and enable them to succeed in STEM-related careers.
The Action Plan
The commission also came up with an action plan containing several recommendations based on the 4 major imperatives. This plan discusses how the government, organisations promoting STEM education, and educational institutions should proceed so as to effectively expose young students to ample STEM learning so that they can confidently choose a career in any of the STEM fields. The important points of the action plan are stated as follows:
- Establishing a business-led STEM framework to improve the attractiveness of the sector.
- Introducing prestigious STEM bursaries and scholarships among all age groups.
- Addressing gender bias, especially within physical sciences and engineering.
- Developing regional STEM links and working in partnership with regional creative industries.
- Addressing the disparity in STEM performance among different schools across the nation.
- Developing a clear STEM career path, and promoting STEM opportunities to parents.
- Supporting primary school teachers in teaching the area of learning.
- Reviewing ongoing developments in mathematics with respect to STEM provisions.
- Making STEM learning more enquiry based, providing students with opportunities to develop their thinking and problem-solving skills.
- Increasing the emphasis on the core science and mathematics subjects in the curriculum.
- Facilitating easier two-way transfer between further education and higher education.
- Reducing barriers to obtain support in STEM by encouraging employers to offer appropriate work placements and scholarships for students.
- Developing a STEM continuing professional development framework.
- Increasing the emphasis on STEM careers education, information, advice and guidance.
- Developing a more proactive approach to managing STEM supply and demand.
- Increasing the number of applications for physical sciences and mathematics in the Initial Teacher Education courses.
- Expanding the capacity to respond to critical skills shortages as they arise.
- The involved government departments should coordinate better and develop a clear STEM strategy and vision. They should introduce cross-departmental structures to help develop appropriate STEM strategies and policies.
We have discussed the various problem areas in promoting proper STEM education to young students and how the government plans to allay these issues. The commission set up by the government of United Kingdom provided detailed recommendations based on the 4 major imperatives after thoroughly observing the STEM-related avenues that were already being pursued.
In conclusion, 3 priority actions were identified that were to be addressed in the short term:
- Priority Action 1: Coordinate Business Links
- Priority Action 2: Manage STEM sector attractiveness
- Priority Action 3: Facilitate STEM Continuous Professional Development