STEM education (Science, Technology, Engineering, and Mathematics) can give kids a distinct advantage over their peers as the workplace and employers’ needs evolve. This is why experts agree that enrolling kids in STEM schools will yield numerous benefits. We’ve compiled ten undeniable reasons why STEM benefits students.
Career opportunities in STEM fields are growing compared to non-STEM fields and, as technology evolves, the trend is picking up. Students with a STEM education will be better prepared for future careers, command higher salaries, and may have an easier time entering the job market and advancing. STEM takes an approach to learning that transcends the limits set by traditional curricula.
Parents will always want to equip their kids with skills for the future to give them the best opportunities on the job market, and there’s no question that specializing in STEM fields will radically improve their prospects. However, this is just one of the many benefits that a STEM education gives kids. There are plenty of other reasons why STEM schools benefit students. Let’s explore!
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Why Is STEM Good For Students?
There are countless benefits for students pursuing an education in STEM fields, not only because it equips them with the skills that will be required in future workplaces but because STEM schools go beyond Science, Technology, Engineering, and Mathematics; it’s a philosophy, an alternative approach to education that allows kids to learn on their own terms, focusing on the areas that they excel in, and gain valuable soft skills that are critical to success.
1. Learning Applicable Skills
We all remember a school subject that we look back on and realize that we would never use that information in any practical manner again in our entire lives. In STEM schools, the focus is placed on equipping students with practical skills and theoretical knowledge that will actually be applied in the workplace and their day-to-day jobs if they are interested in STEM careers.
2. Preparation For Future Workplaces
There has been a 17% surge in demand for jobs in STEM fields in the last decade, compared to 9.8% for jobs in non-STEM fields, making it the fastest-growing jobs market in the United States and every advanced economy in the world.
A study from the Bureau of Labor and Statistics shows that the number of STEM jobs will grow at 8% in the United States between 2019 and 2029, a significantly faster rate than any other field; this includes a growth rate of 22% in software development jobs. Jobs in STEM fields have already shown enormous growth, up 79% (9.7 million to 17.3 million) from 1990.
Combine that with an uncomfortable estimate is that the US will lose more than 1.5 million jobs to automation by 2030 and we can see the bigger picture. Even China is anticipated to lose 12.5 million jobs. With the radical changes to our job markets that the emergence of Artificial Intelligence and robotics technologies will bring about globally, pursuing careers in just about anything but STEM skills may have risk because there’s no telling whether those jobs will even exist when kids that are just starting school now have completed their education.
Not to mention, STEM jobs fetch pretty good salaries, with a median wage of $38.85 hourly, compared to $19.30 in non-STEM fields. Annually, STEM field workers earn a median salary of $89,780, more than double the $40,020 median for non-STEM workers.
And there’s not a lot of competition at the moment, with just 20% of all high school graduates in the US prepared for a college degree in a STEM major. So, whichever way you look at it, a STEM-focused education gives students a massive boost when it comes to future job prospects, and there’s nothing that would serve them better than studying at a STEM school.
3. STEM Builds Resilience
One of the great things about STEM schools is their approach to education on a philosophical level. STEM schools do not punish children for failure but embrace it as part of life and learning. Innovation is frequently the result of trying again after failure (and learning from what didn’t work.) They recognize that it’s important to pick yourself up and start again after you’ve failed.
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By embracing failure, students will not feel self-conscious when they fail, and their self-esteem will not be as adversely affected when they aren’t successful in their endeavors. Some STEM schools in various districts with varying regulations have abandoned standardized testing and make room for failure, determining competency in other ways, focusing more on projects and group work. This helps develop the mental and emotional fortitude that is required in the modern workplace.
4. STEAM & Creativity
People think of subjects like art, English (language arts), and music as creative subjects, but there is evidence to show that STEM subjects foster creativity because developing new technologies and experimenting with the students’ applicable skills allows them to harness their ingenuity to find new and creative solutions by combining the concepts from various STEM disciplines.
However, some STEM schools have adopted a different approach by offering STEAM (Science, Technology, Engineering, Arts, and Mathematics) coursework, which includes the Arts as part of the education process, helping students develop their language skills, study the social sciences, and explore other avenues for creativity in combination with the more scientific and technical topics.
Ultimately, STEM and STEAM have common goals to combine the knowledge from all areas of education to create, design, and solve problems.
5. Teamwork & Collaboration
Since STEM schools have grounded their approach to education in helping students develop skills for future jobs, teamwork and communication skills will play a key role in developing soft skills that aren’t given the credit they deserve.
If you cannot collaborate with your peers and communicate your ideas to create the solutions you’ve acquired the skills for, what’s the point?
Mainstream, traditional educational approaches often neglect the need to develop social skills and communicate ideas thoroughly in a practical setting. By operating in an environment that encourages teamwork, students can gain far more valuable skills than those required for STEM fields; they will develop the skills they need to navigate all aspects of life.
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6. STEM Encourages Experimentation
A key part of learning, especially for young kids, is to learn by doing. At STEM schools, students are encouraged to try new things as they work on various projects. Teachers can only instruct students to a point, but if students can’t apply those skills independently to create something new, they won’t thrive in STEM fields that reward innovation.
Experimentation is also part of the failure process. When students experiment and fail, they are instructed to identify which part of the process fell short and identify where the experiment could have been carried out better. These lessons are analyzed and improved upon to achieve better results on the next attempt. Ultimately, this kind of experimentation is valued more than anything else by employers in STEM fields and could even encourage students to become innovative entrepreneurs one day.
7. Alternative Approach To Learning
As we’ve reiterated throughout this article, STEM schools take a different approach to education. For decades, parents, students, and teachers alike have complained about the various failures in our education, where too many children get bored, socially isolated, demotivated, or struggle academically.
After all, the core of our education system in most countries was born of a desire to create an an easily manageable workforce at the dawn of the industrial revolution. Schools and the education system have not changed much, and these problems remain prevalent. This is why STEM (and STEAM) schools are stepping in to flip the script.
What if learning was easy and tailored for each student’s unique abilities? What if they enjoyed their school experience rather than lament it, or if it was okay to fail? We’ve been asking these questions for decades, and STEM schools are combining the skills that are in high demand with an environment that radically improves students’ experiences at school.
8. STEM Students Work At Their Own Pace
The problem with standardized education is that each student develops at a different rate. Traditional grades are often combined (for example, pre-kindergarteners will be grouped with other kids until third grade) because students need to develop and progress through various subjects at a pace that suits them. This prevents slow learners from falling behind and fast learners from growing bored and complacent.
Sometimes five-year-olds can thrive at second-grade level math, and some 9-year-olds struggle to read at a first-grade level. And the kid that struggles with reading might be good at mathematics, while the kid that excels at math might struggle with science. STEM schools allow students to focus on the subjects they show an aptitude for while allowing them time to build a solid foundation for their shortcomings in other areas to achieve competency.
9. Early Childhood Development
One of the great things about STEM schools is that they introduce concepts to kids at pre-K level, which builds an unparalleled foundation that gives them a head start that will help them excel throughout their lives.
There’s no question that the younger we are, the faster we absorb information. If students can grasp basic concepts such as simple arithmetic, phonics, and reading from an early age, they’ll be able to process new concepts faster when they progress to the next stage of their education.
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10. STEM Schools Are Fun!
Something that’s always been missing from the current education system is that it doesn’t allow students to have fun.
If students aren’t enjoying their educational experience, they aren’t likely to excel in what they’re doing. If you walk into a classroom at a STEM school, you will notice how radically different it is immediately. Students aren’t seated in desks in straight lines, if they’re even in their desks at all, but will be seated together in groups, getting on with their experiments while teachers get involved when they instruct the students.
STEM classes are focused on hands on active learning, instead of being lectured at and rote memorization.
The environment might appear cluttered and disorganized to the untrained eye, but STEM teachers have control over their classes despite the chaos! STEM schools encourage students to organize their environments and teach them how to do so. Still, they allow students to express themselves and create an environment that makes them feel the most comfortable and increases the chances of enjoying their classes.
Older students at STEM schools tend to create very well-organized environments for themselves due to their exposure to different environments and their efforts to curate their environment to maximize their potential and make their school experience as enjoyable as possible.
STEM schools also organize fun activities such as beach cleanup days, eco-friendly adult audits, outreach programs, and tree-planting ceremonies that allow students to give back to the environment and their communities and potentially find their passion in philanthropic ventures. These activities give students an increased opportunity to socialize and explore the world, actively engaging with their peers. This makes schooling more enjoyable, engaging, and effective.
Criticisms of STEM Education
If you’re convinced that a STEM education would be the right choice for your kids, We’re with you. That said, we’d be negligent if we don’t acknowledge the counterpoint that there may be drawbacks to a STEM-focused education.
The most prominent criticism lodged at STEM schools is that they are one-dimensional. Critics argue that we will ignore the arts at our peril and that they will remain to be a fundamental aspect of human existence even after non-STEM fields have been automated.
Others say that subjects outside of STEM disciplines are equally important in the workplace, even if they don’t appear as important on paper. For example, to tap into our creative potential, we should be exposed to foreign languages, history, art, and other non-STEM subjects. These fields of study represent a gap in STEM. It is for this reason that some STEM schools have evolved into STEAM schools to incorporate the arts.
Economists, specifically, have warned against placing too much focus on one sector because an over reliance on STEM fields can lead to a lopsided economy and could collapse at any sign of market disruption. There’s also the fact that, right now, we still need professionals in other fields that are the backbone of our economy. Until a STEM innovator can find solutions that can do these jobs better, other sectors will still need workers.
Another major criticism of STEM-focused programs is that girls and young women show less interest in STEM subjects and that minorities are underrepresented in STEM programs (and are less likely to find employment after graduation.) Studies show that students can get left behind at STEM schools if they don’t show an aptitude for STEM subjects. Data shows that the students who thrive in STEM schools tend to be affluent males.
However, STEM employers, schools, and institutions have been actively encouraging more girls and minorities to join their programs, with various scholarships, internships, and employment opportunities being made available to ensure that the industry becomes more diverse. In fact, STEM schools have been given a lot of credit for their willingness to embrace diversity.
While STEM may not be perfect, there are movements to make it more accessible and to evolve it to provide a comprehensive education. Ultimately, the goal is to prepare students to be successful in their careers (and life) and to adapt and innovate.
So, Should You Send Your Kid To A STEM School?
With all things considered, the benefits STEM programs provide students are undeniable. While there may be drawbacks to STEM-focused programs, measures have been taken to rectify some of these shortcomings. STEM schools haven’t been around for nearly as long as traditional schools, and are still developing. That said, there’s always room to improve and refine their alternative approach to learning. Learning from mistakes and improving is one of the tenants STEM is based on.
Sending your kids to STEM schools can give them a major boost and all but secure their place in the workforce by the time they’ve completed their education. Students with STEM degrees are more likely to land a job, start a business, and/or make more money than their peers.
That’s not to say that STEM learning is for everyone. Each child is different and, ultimately, you can’t make their choices for them. Some of us just aren’t made to be software developers and microbiologists. As a parent, you know your child best, and there’s no telling from a young age what they will take an interest in.
For students showing an aptitude (and interest) towards STEM subjects, it is certainly advisable that you enroll them in a STEM school as early as possible. If you or your kids are still unsure about whether a STEM school is right for them, there’s no doubt that spending time in a STEM school will allow them to explore what they enjoy and make a better-informed decision at a later point in their education.
Looking for STEM activities to get your kids started? We’ve got a whole series of activities and STEM challenges that help develop critical thinking skills, cognitive skills, and hands-on learning.
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