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Increasing Awareness of STEM in the General Public
By Flupiajo Posted:December 16, 2013 0 Comments
The amount of effort expended on raising student achievement in STEM subjects has exploded over the last decade. Through increasing allocation of government resources, expanding business partnerships, and refocusing classroom priorities, students in many areas are becoming better equipped to meet the daunting challenges that the STEM field has in store for them when they enter their careers. However, this fantastic effort has not received the widespread attention that it deserves, and the lack of general public knowledge about contemporary STEM efforts threatens to derail this progress over time. Indeed, a recent study conducted in Iowa found that almost three out of four people could not accurately state what the letters of STEM stood for in regards to education. In order to continue the forward progression of STEM efforts in the United States, awareness has to be a key concern.

Many may wonder why it is important for everyone to know about what STEM education is and what it entails. After all, if the policymakers and education professionals know what is going on, why does anybody else have to? The answer to this lies in the key role that parents and other role models play in the educational life of every student. Though usually not education professionals themselves, parents and mentors provide valuable help in aiding a student's learning, pushing them to discover new things, and exposing them to a lifestyle of learning that exists outside the classroom. In an age where parents believe in the value of a strong education and understand that it can be the silver bullet to many of society's problems, most want to know how they can best support their successes children's successes. One way is by making sure that an involvement with science, technology, engineering, and math does not end at the school steps but rather permeates a student's life.

Indeed, this need for more people to become aware of the problems still facing STEM achievement has never been more apparent within the STEM community. In Iowa, the governor is launching a STEM education campaign that is targeting 100,000 students with advanced STEM efforts. But he's also devoting $300,000 to a campaign to make sure that the people of Iowa understand the necessity for this program and its benefits. As the governor of Iowa realizes, doing good work is not enough for sustainability. People have to know about what is going so that they have the chance to support it in the future. STEM education at all levels of government could use this support.

Another key aspect of making sure that STEM goals and priorities are telegraphed to the wider American society is that it allows everyone the opportunity to support students' STEM interests. Many students are deterred from pursuing complex STEM careers because they are told from an early age that science and math are hard, challenging, and in some cases, no subjects for someone like themselves. By creating a community built around a belief in the potential of every child to succeed in STEM, these sorts of messages can be curtailed so that every student has faith that their parents, role models, and other supporting adults believe that STEM can be a valuable and achievable part of their approach to the world. Business leaders of today know that they need more people prepared in the STEM subjects. By positively supporting students' STEM aspirations, parents can help fill this expected future skills gap.

No one expects parents to be education professionals. No one expects them to delve into the daily education news or become education policy experts. But they provide a pivotal role in supporting children's education. By looping these valuable partners into the discussion about STEM, not only will STEM education make its way into the homes of students, but it will also increase exposure about the further need for additional STEM support. This can translate into adult constituents advocating for more STEM funding in schools, politicians devoting more time to addressing this subject, and society as a whole having a conversation about where STEM is going and how to be ready for it. These are things that are already happening among those informed of the importance of STEM. Imagine where the conversation could go if everybody joined in.