STEM, or Science, Technology, Engineering and Math, is a current hot topic in education. Lots of energy is going into developing programs that attempt to integrate the individual content areas of STEM into a unified curriculum that offers greater connection to the real world and provides authentic purposes for learning and solving problems.
People should support the push for STEM in their schools but on the other hand as the latest educational trend, STEM is not always well-conceived. The growing emphasis on STEM supports the efforts of teachers to encourage students to focus on these important areas of instruction that will help them not just academically, but in preparing for the world of work. It is not just the teachers telling them math and science are important, but it is employers and colleges as well.
Often school students have such limited horizons and do not see STEM-related jobs as realistic options; moreover, many students lack even basic math and science skills needed to master STEM subjects. Students need to begin learning about STEM-related jobs and their required skill sets early enough to be motivated to really focused on their learning and STEM-related careers.
In some schools, working scientists visit classrooms on a regular basis, helping students design experiments and develop projects and activities for a variety of national STEM competitions as well as helping teachers run competitions where students present and defend their work. Some of these special programs are elitist.
It is great that motivated, well-prepared students get these opportunities, but more enthusiasm about STEM would be there if there was more focus on helping all students develop the mathematical, scientific and technological literacy they will need to function as effective and informed citizens.
One of the things about STEM is that the concepts and approaches at the heart of the STEM disciplines—curiosity, inquiry, creativity, exploration, collaboration, and critical thinking—are the skills that will be most likely to help students be successful in higher education, in the workplace and as citizens of the world.