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Atkinson, Hugo and Lundgren (2007) allege, “We now are in the STEM generation” (p. 15). STEM is an acronym for science, technology, engineering, and mathematics. Today, the acronym has taken a broader meaning. It encompasses environment, agriculture, education, economics, and medicine.
There is a universal agreement that everyone deserves to be STEM literate. However, there is a distinction between being STEM literate and literacy. According to Atkinson et al. (2007), STEM literacy is perceived as deictic way of acquiring further learning.
STEM literacy is founded on three pillars of learning, which are cognitive, affective, and psychomotor.
Atkinson et al. (2007) claim that STEM literacy “refers to the ability to adapt to and accept changes driven by new technology work, to anticipate multilevel impacts of their actions, and find measured, yet creative, solutions to problems that are today unimaginable” (p. 19).
They argue that STEM is perceived as an essential component in the training of our next cohort. It assists to improve the quality of education system and enables learners to compete in the global platform.
The present competitive world requires a highly educated and skilled workforce. This article will discuss the significances of exposing young students to STEM education.
Exposure to STEM Education
There are worries that the majority of the young people in the United States are not ready to react to present or future demands. The Majority of the students perform poorly in mathematics, science, engineering, and technology-related subjects. Additionally, many students do not enroll in STEM-related courses (Atkinson et al., 2007).
Thus, United States is experiencing shortage of people qualified in STEM-related professions. The findings are shocking because it will be difficult for the United States to remain competitive in the global economy.
The country should initiate programs aimed at encouraging students to study STEM-related subjects. Research has shown that mathematics and science contribute to innovation and discovery.
A society cannot achieve innovation if it does not encourage its students to study mathematics and science. Apart from mathematics and science, engineering and technology also play a significant role in economic development and career growth.
Hence, the United States should ensure that it introduces the two courses to students as early as possible. Bagiati, Yoon, Evangelou and Ngambeki (2010) allege that people are expected to acquire varied problem-solving skills and deal with numerous challenges facing the society in the 21st century.
The skills include leadership and teamwork, flexibility and dexterity, and entrepreneurialism and inventiveness. Introducing STEM education to young students will help them to develop these skills at an early age.
Moreover, it will help countries to cope with ever-changing social and economic needs. However, the students will not gain the skills unless the United States transforms its educational standards.
A primary topic that is covered by the majority of the present science education writings is the growing unwillingness of youthful people to embrace STEM education. The authors allege that young students are avoiding science, technology, engineering, and mathematics-related courses.
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Scholars have given recommendations on how to address this challenge. One of the recommendations is exposing students to STEM education at an early age (Bagiati et al., 2010). Early introduction to STEM education will facilitate in students’ overall academic development.
It will assist students to develop critical thinking and encourage them to pursue careers that are related to STEM. Over 77% of women and minority groups do not feature in the United States’ STEM workforce. The country does not motivate and nurture these groups to practice STEM education at their early age (Bagiati et al., 2010).
Thus, the government should ensure that it avails adequate STEM education resources and motivates young students to pursue STEM-related courses.
Research has proved that students abandon STEM-related subjects before they join the eighth grade. Many students complain that the majority of STEM-related subjects are boring, challenging and uninteresting.
As a result, they do not prefer continuing with the subjects. Having known that students lose interest in STEM-related subjects at their seventh grade, teachers should focus on learners at this grade (Brophy, Klein, Portsmore & Rogers, 2008).
Studies have shown that the majority of the students who pursue STEM education in the eighth grade end up pursuing STEM-related careers in the future. Thus, it is important that teachers and all education stakeholders encourage students to take STEM-related subjects.
Exposing students to STEM education at early life will have a lasting impact on the entire STEM education society and learners. Many countries are dedicated to generating STEM-concerned personnel and students. Nevertheless, they cannot achieve this goal unless they assist all students to develop their capacities.
In 2007, over three-quarters of the United States’ students were not ready to pursue college studies in science, technology, engineering, and mathematics.
Even more disturbing, “there existed both an interest and achievement gap among African Americans, Hispanics, and females in the STEM fields, which limited participation in STEM-related jobs” (Brophy et al., 2008, p. 371).
Significant Impacts of STEM Education to Young Students
One of the significant impacts of introducing STEM education to young students is that it helps them to develop positive attitude and confidence. Most middle school students suffer from fretfulness or dislike for mathematics. The students believe that they are not gifted in mathematics, and only specific students can handle the subject.
They also maintain that no amount of assistance or motivation can help those who are not gifted in mathematics. Carnevale, Smith and Melton (2011) assert that a student’s perception that personal difficulty with STEM-related subjects is due to lack of knack weakens his/her impetus and may lead to nervousness.
Thus, introducing STEM education to students at an early age can help them to develop positive attitude and confidence in STEM-related subjects. STEM system is designed in a way that it is teacher intensive. Teachers mentor students and assist them to deal with apprehension, which is the main reason why they avoid STEM education.
Moreover, teachers help students to gain the courage to pursue STEM-related subjects. According to Carnevale et al. (2011), introducing STEM education to students at an early age will help them to understand, identify and engage with the subjects.
Besides, it will enable students to make well-informed decisions on the importance of mathematics, science, technology or engineering in their life.
Abrams, Southerland and Silva (2007) allege that STEM literacy “means more than mapping the numerous overlapping interdisciplinary skills, concepts, and processes” (p. 42).
Introducing STEM education to young students will help learners to develop skills that will help them to adjust and embrace transformations caused by modern technology. Moreover, it will prepare students to assume complex duties in the future. Countries need to find innovative solutions to challenges that are nowadays inconceivable.
They cannot find these solutions unless they equip their learners with innovative and original decision-making skills. Allowing students to pursue STEM-related subjects at an early age will help them to cope with personal needs in the future (Abrams et al., 2007). They will become not only knowledgeable and fulfilled, but also productive citizens.
STEM education promotes integrated learning. The constructivist learning theory holds that blended education helps students to acquire knowledge and skills in different areas. According to Abrams et al. (2007), STEM education is a system of teaching for understanding.
The system involves “teachers as facilitators, students as active learners, and construction of knowledge rather than mere absorption of facts” (Abrams et al., 2007, p. 48). STEM education will help students to gain knowledge in different areas. For instance, a student will use mathematics skills to solve science problems.
On the other hand, some science activities will help a student to study and understand mathematics. The majority of the teachers wonder if integrated lessons help students to grasp concepts. Hence, many teachers avoid introducing STEM education to young students in fear that they might not understand the subjects.
A study by Cole and Espinoza (2007) showed that young students benefit from integrated lessons. The lessons help students to gain problem-solving skills, encourage cooperation, improve students’ thoughts about school, and encourage high attendance.
Cole and Espinoza (2007) charge that engineering curricular offers a conduit for combining mathematics and science. In addition, it provides a background for the significance and purpose of mathematics and science. Most students avoid STEM-related subjects because they do not understand their importance.
Therefore, engineering, as one of the STEM-related education creates a connection between class work and real-life experiences. Cole and Espinoza (2007) allege, “Presently, minority groups and women are underrepresented in engineering fields” (p. 290). Moreover, the number of students who enroll for engineering courses is small.
It shows that the general public does not understand the role of engineers in developing novel technologies, which boost the living standards (Cunningham, Knight, Carlsen & Kelly, 2007). Unquestionably, introducing STEM education to young students will act as a motivation to students.
Many students will change their attitudes toward engineering and see it as a promising career option. Besides, introducing engineering education to young students will help them to gain skills in other areas like science, technology, and mathematics.
It will also encourage many girls to pursue STEM-related careers in the future and reduce the underrepresentation of women in the jobs.
People are expected to continue to participate in STEM-related discourses and make decisions on issues like information technology and energy. People cannot make informed decisions on matters related to energy and information technology unless they have sufficient knowledge of STEM concepts.
According to Cunningham et al. (2007), people should begin to gain insights and awareness of STEM education as early as possible. They signify the importance of introducing STEM education to young students.
Additionally, taking advantage of young students’ intrinsic interest in STEM education at the primary level will spur their aspiration to pursue STEM-related courses later. Introducing STEM education to young students will not only guarantee an educated citizenry, but also address the high demand for STEM experts.
Exposing young students to STEM education and duties of STEM experts will help them to gain concern and skills in STEM careers. Failure to introduce STEM education at an early age will lead to students developing negative attitude towards the education.
Dierking (2010) argues that development of negative attitude can hamper the acquirement of additional knowledge.
In the United States, STEM skills are mainly developed in secondary schools. Teachers blame this to the lack of adequate planning and classroom time.
However, there is evidence that STEM skills developed from early learning will assist students to gain skills and traits that will create a generation of STEM understanding and adeptness (Kokkelenberg, & Sinha, 2010).
One of the reasons why it is imperative to introduce STEM education to young students is that it uses inquiry as its primary learning method. Children use question to learn. They ask questions, investigate and discuss their results. Young learners are gifted in experimentation and investigation.
When these gifts are aligned with ‘essential STEM ideas and instructions through inquiry techniques, students gain concrete base in STEM-related subjects.
Encouraging young students to take STEM-related subjects will equip them with vocabularies and concepts that will be invaluable when studying in higher grades (Kokkelenberg & Sinha, 2010).
Through online, STEM enables students to participate in virtual explorations. Hence, they are equipped with knowledge in research and scientific inquiry.
According to Mohr-Schroeder et al. (2010), children have an innate interest in discovery and innovation. However, formal education does not help to exploit their curiosity. STEM education promotes inquiry activities, which nurture and promote innovation and development.
According to Mohr-Schroeder et al. (2010), students who engage in research activities that foster development during their early life exhibit confidence and positive attitude towards education. They claim that students who pursue STEM education at an early age are likely to perform well and get jobs after studies.
Hence, introducing STEM education to young students will lead to positive life-changing outcomes. People neglect early elementary science as a requisite base for molding future scientists. Many people believe that students naturally develop interests in individual subjects once they are introduced in middle schools (O’Brien, 2010).
However, ultimate success levels in all subjects begin in elementary grade. Introducing STEM education to young students will hasten the growth of numerous skills including judgment and language, which are valuable in studying other subjects.
STEM education embraces complementary learning. Students are not only encouraged to focus on class work, but also on other experiences outside the class. O’Brien (2010) alleges that introducing STEM education to young students will promote families’ involvement in students’ education.
Besides, it will align the educational wherewithal to offer comprehensive learning, which focuses on the needs of individual students. Exposing young students to STEM education will result in student-generated explorations of mathematics, science, technology and engineering through life experience and social contact.
Not only does STEM education jump-start a student’s long-term interest in mathematics, science, engineering, and technology, but also considerably improves STEM comprehension.
Thiry, Laursen and Hunter (2011) argue that students will gain from STEM education since STEM-related careers are expanding at an alarming rate. Experts anticipate that by 2018, 5% of the global jobs will be related to STEM (Thiry et al., 2011).
This implies that at least 2.8 million students who pursue STEM education will be assured of ready jobs. The majority of the students avoid STEM-related subjects because they are academically rigorous. However, they do not understand the benefits of studying such subjects.
Encouraging young students to take STEM education will give them an opportunity to tap into some of their unutilized skills. Engineering courses require competent teachers and advanced technology. Hence, many students avoid the courses.
Besides, there are teachers who discourage students from taking STEM education (Thiry et al., 2011). What they do not understand is that engineering courses are among the most exciting and motivating classes that young students can pursue.
Exposing young students to STEM education will help them to ascertain their aptitudes and interests in STEM careers. Students cannot take STEM-related subjects unless teachers encourage them to do so.
Exposing young students to STEM education will assure determined students who wish to take work-intensive courses like engineering that they stand to benefit in the future.
Thiry et al. (2011) allege, “With the necessary exposure to engineers and engineering fields, students will understand that more modest grades are perfectly acceptable given the higher demand and lower enrollment in these courses” (p. 381).
Tytler (2007) argues that STEM education has numerous effects on people’s life. It determines the future of their children. Today, people live in the technological age. According to Tytler (2007), STEM education mostly affects young children. It affects not only their future careers, but also decision-making processes.
According to the United States Department of Commerce, STEM-related employment opportunities are growing at 17% (Wang, 2013). Hence, introducing STEM education to young students will not only prepare them to occupy these opportunities, but also ensure that the country has adequate labor force (Wang, 2013).
Wang (2013) argues that every state is looking for individuals with the capacity to transform its economy and build communities. For instance, states are looking for people who can assist them to curb global warming, alleviate hunger, and fight cancer. Such people are required to have a strong foundation in STEM-related courses.
A person cannot help an entrepreneur to develop a state-of-the-art technology if s/he does not have skills in engineering and technology. If countries want to find the right people to drive the future economy, they must introduce students to STEM education in their tender age.
STEM education covers science, mathematics, technology and engineering. It gives students an opportunity to learn through inquiry. Besides, it equips students with problem-solving techniques and prepares them to pursue STEM-related careers. Introducing STEM education to students at an early age will have numerous benefits.
It will assist learners to comprehend ideas as it will enable them to relate diverse incidents to real-world circumstances. In addition, it will assist scholars to develop optimistic outlooks toward STEM-related subjects.
On the other hand, it will boost a country’s economy. If the United States is to stay aggressive in the international market, it should persuade its young scholars to do STEM-related subjects. Currently, the majority of the United States students do not understand science.
Besides, many students avoid taking STEM-related subjects because they are academically rigorous. The country should try to convince students that the rewards of pursuing academically rigorous subjects are worth risking. Teachers should understand that students cannot take STEM-related subjects unless they are motivated.
Requesting students to take as many mathematics, science, engineering or technology lessons as possible will not work. Instead, teachers should passionately engage students in selection and study of STEM education.
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