I recently attended the 2012 STEM Education Conference in Galveston, Texas. During lunch one day, there was a panel of individuals from the STEM industry, talking about the things they see as important issues facing STEM education today.
One of the speakers was an individual from National Instruments. When the panel was asked a question about their own children, she said something that really rang true with me.
“We need to quit making the E so big in STEM.”
Now, I might be upsetting some folks out there with this, but I have to say that I wholeheartedly agree with her. There are four pieces to STEM – Science, Technology, Engineering, and Mathematics, yet every Academy that was represented at the conference puts a focus on their engineering pathways.
I do understand the value of teaching all students the engineering design algorithm and its applications. It is a valuable tool for them as they go through their problem-solving activities, setting and evaluating goals, and measuring their own progress. However, I do not see why every student should be encourage to BE an engineer. There are so many occupations out there that involve Science, Technology, and Mathematics – Engineering is only one of them, yet so much emphasis is put on that one focus.
Overall, the panel was pretty clear that they want educational institutions to stop placing all of their emphasis on college readiness. Students should not be made to feel like there is something wrong with them if they don’t go to college. Learning in STEM can be focused on the concepts while highlighting the many careers that individuals with and without degrees can hold by pursuing STEM studies in school.