Scholars have been debating for years on every aspect of STEM imaginable. These individuals argue over whether these can be defined and clearly placed in a neat little box, how early should these subjects be taught to children, if STEM should be taught to all children or a select group, and how to implement the idea of a STEM school into the typical school’s already hectic curriculum plans. The only thing that these scholars have concluded is that these questions are very worthy of debate and that that debate needs to happen sooner than later with our every-changing world.
If you’re sitting back and reading this wondering “okay, but why is teaching STEM education so hard?”, then continue reading on. You may find that the process is a little more complicated than you had initially assumed it would be. Here is what may be happening behind the scenes and why teaching these subjects can be so hard:
There Really Are No Firm Boundaries, Definitions, Or Plans to Teach STEM
You may be thinking that we have defined STEM as “Science, Technology, Engineering, and Mathematics”, but if it were that simple, then we would have alphabet soup of all the subjects being taught in schools today. Realistically, this is grouped in the way that it is because these subjects all weave in and out of each other to form the fabric of many different highly-demanding careers. You can’t have a bridge engineer that can draw a pretty picture, come up with a few different material ideas, and then not have any idea of what math is required to accurately, safely, and efficiently calculate how it needs to be done. Can you imagine how much harder it would be for someone to come up with the next smartphone without any clue of how materials react with each other or how to make the mobile device connect with other devices? The problem here is that the subjects do work with each other, but they do so in varying ways. How do we teach a lot of students about STEM at one time when each of them has different needs for their potential future careers?
STEM Is Still a Relatively New Idea
The ideas of science, technology, engineering, and mathematics are not new. We have had scientists since the beginning of time, math wizards for centuries, engineers for many more years than we can count, and technology professions since the rise of technology. Still, the idea of grouping all four of these subjects together to create something even more powerful and meaningful is new. Bridges aren’t new, but the high-tech, safe, indestructible bridges that are starting to be created are new. Buildings aren’t new, but buildings that are very cheaply made, stronger than any current homes, and can be built in a single day are new. The more accepting we become of STEM, the greater our advancements seem to be. We know that we want more of these wonderful advancements in society, but figuring out how to start those ideas in school-aged children is an incredibly new proposal and will take a bit of time to really take off.
Schools Would Have to Go Through a Lengthy, Sometimes Costly Process
STEM Schools are limited on the amount of money they are given from their various sources, which includes public and public funding. Most of the time, schools do not have the funding necessary to create the type of environment students really need, hire the qualified staff that is necessary, and update technologies and materials as often as they need to be updated. Offering STEM education can be expensive to schools. Hiring professionals that have been trained to teach these subjects can be an added expense that STEM schools cannot take on easily. Many teachers can teach one of the four subjects, a handful can teach two, but very few are qualified to teach all four.
The Technologies Are Not Always Readily Available
If we want to teach our children how to build with 3d printers, then we need to give them the tools to learn how to do so. Schools just do not have the money at this moment in time to fund such expensive materials and technologies and schools are forced to either abandon the idea of teaching these topics, or schools require that students do their own research at home and hope for the best.
The Data and Research Require to Teach STEM Is Still Being Gathered
Because STEM is a new topic of interest, researchers are still collecting the data necessary to back up claims that teaching these subjects in school is beneficial. We know that we want our children to be prepared for careers that require technical skills, but we do not know what side-effects that forcing children that do not want to learn STEM can cause.
There Are Arguments Over Whether STEM Should Be Taught at All
As mentioned far earlier, there are scholars that argue with each other over whether STEM is even worthy of being taught in schools. There are plenty of useful classes and subjects that students will choose to make a career out of that aren’t taught in all schools- not every school will teach students how to make glass, how to lay cement, or how to put roofs on homes, but we all know of at least one person that make a career out of doing just that, so why does STEM belong in schools if those subjects do not?
STEM Concepts Are Not That Easy to Learn
The average person cannot simply design a brand-new piece of technology with every detail figured out, build a prototype, and start mass producing the product for sale to become a multi-billionaire overnight. If they could, we would all be swimming in copious amounts of money. The strategy, knowledge, and critical thinking skills that go into teaching STEM education and comprehending it are not easy to learn. While we want all children to be successful at everything we put in front of them, we must understand that STEM as it is currently proposed most likely isn’t something that everyone could learn successfully.
Schools Are Already Struggling to Meet Their Current Standards
Very few schools across the United States of America are meeting their current curriculum needs and standards. Fewer and fewer students each year are meeting the minimum requirements necessary for what states would consider mastery in subject areas such as reading, writing, science, and math. Yes, science and math. If students are already struggling in these areas when they are separated, schools feel less inclined to want to invest in teaching complicated STEM courses. At the end of the day, schools need to meet their current standards first.
Teaching STEM education may not be easy. There are logistical problems and obstacles that must be overcome as well as teaching the subject matter itself. Nobody really knows where the future of STEM in schools is really heading because of the current political climate, but we do know that the job market is increasingly demanding individuals to have technical skills. We know that the pay-off is there, but we don’t know just how to make it a permanent part of education quite yet.