Don’t let STEM get you rooted to a spot!
There is much hype about STEM education in Singapore. Likewise, there is an increasing demand for parents to enrol their children in STEM education as early as pre-school.
So what is STEM? Why is it so important? How does it benefit your little loved ones?
In this article and after reading it, you will NOT be baffled by STEM. With this awareness, parents as working adults (like you and I) can better strategise and work out a plan for ourselves to stay competitive. Most importantly, as parents we are in better perspective to nurture our children and start STEM at an early stage of their learning journey.
What is STEM?
STEM stands for Science, Technology, Engineering, and Mathematics.
STEM education is an interdisciplinary approach to learning where rigorous academic concepts are coupled with real world lessons as students apply science, technology, engineering and mathematics in contents that make connections between school, community, work, and the global enterprise enabling the development of STEM literacy and with it the ability to compete in the new economy.
It is an education curriculum that integrates the four disciplines (Science, Technology, Engineering, and Mathematics) into one cohesive learning model that focuses on real-world examples. It breaks away from the traditional teaching. Traditionally, education was about learning by way of knowledge and memorization. It relies more on the information you retain rather than the information you apply.
For STEM, it is generally taught in an interdisciplinary and applied learning manner that emphasises authentic and practice-oriented learning experiences. Problem thinking skills are involved in the STEM process.
Impetus to STEM education
Singapore has been well-known for its high standard of education, particularly in the field of Math and Science. The stellar performance of Singpaporean students in the PISA and TIMSS in 2015 demonstrated the success of Math and Science in STEM education.
The Organization for Economic Cooperation and Development (OECD) in 2015, rated the Singapore education system as the best in the world. Andreas Schleicher, the director of OECD, stated that Singapore students are the best in Maths and sciences. Education system is successful because it focuses on teaching students specific problem-solving skills in real life.
Responding to the potential impact of the STEM to our economy, many Singapore leaders had voiced the importance of STEM education.
Emeritus Senior Minister Goh Chok Tong (2017) made his keynote at Asean@50: In Retrospect Seminar - Our ability to thrive and meet the challenges of the future economy requires a workforce pushing the frontiers of science and technology…We must push bright young students towards STEM.
Prime Minister Lee Hsien Loong emphasised the importance of STEM at the 11th Research, Innovation and Enterprise Council (RIEC) Meeting on (2019) - The future of Singapore lies in our ability to leverage S&T to drive economic growth, overcome our national constraints and improve the lives of Singaporeans.
Against the international backdrop of digitisation and technology, there will be an increasing demand for STEM jobs in the future which values cross-disciplinary knowledge and STEM skills. The advent of the fourth industrial revolution gives new impetus to STEM education.
Why start STEM education young?
The Ministry of Education in Singapore has started STEM education since 2014 and even introduced it at the preschool level. STEM education breaks away from the traditional models by examining the combination of all fields of STEM. Students are trained in using problem-solving skills and to be logical thinkers.
The STEM approach to learning takes a hands-on, discovery-based approach that helps kids develop their innate curiosity and interest, retain knowledge for much longer, and apply it in real-life situations.
Studies have shown that children who are exposed to STEM early will be best equipped with the knowledge and skills to understand more complex concepts later in their academic and daily lives. The earlier STEM is incorporated into the school curriculum, the better chance for children to develop a strong understanding and interest in STEM.
It is not difficult to teach STEM to young children as they have a natural and innate curiosity about the world around them. By providing the conducive environment and support to allow them to explore, investigate and ask questions, we are already engaging them in STEM education.
STEM does not mean a complete revamp of the existing lessons and curriculum. At school, teachers can create an environment where students get accustomed to important STEM vocabulary or concepts. Math and Science concepts are introduced naturally through hands-on activities and play.
An example is a simple play with playdough which can help promote learning early science concepts. It is the process of trial and error, creating shapes, comparing sizes and just simply playing with playdough exposes kids to a vast array of math and science concepts. Scientific concepts are introduced in the exploration of materials and how they change. The texture of playdough can be changed by experimenting with varying the ingredients or adding water to make it harder, softer and more watery.
Another way is to get children to read stories (with components related to STEM), identify a problem encountered by any of the characters and help children to work out a solution. It can be stories about airplanes, robots or related to numbers. This helps open young children’s eyes to the world of how Engineering works.
Similarly at home, parents can allow your child to build a robot or car out of lego bricks. The work of play by your child will teach them STEM vocabulary, concepts and problem-solving skills. Play is the work of the child as advocated by Maria Montessori.
Parents are bombarded with many holiday camps and programs such as LEGO robotics. These programs are meant to reinforce children and build creativity. Even Science Center Singapore is inviting children of the age between 18 months and 8 eight years to her kids’ STOP. The Science Center promised parents that the children will be introduced to STEM principles and playing in a safe environment.
With the rapid technological advancements happening now and in the future, Science, Technology, Engineering and Math will play an important role in Singapore’s progress, development and innovations. I hope my sharing here has helped parents to be more informed of STEM, the impetus to embrace it and able to make better decisions in choosing what is best for your child. Don’t let STEM get you rooted to the spot.
A journey of a thousand miles begins with a single step. Make the first step for your children. Let’s start the STEM journey and pave the path of successful learning for your children.
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