STEM education was introduced in 2001 and was originally called “Science, Mathematics, Engineering and Technology”. It was an initiative created by the scientific administrators of the National Science Foundation of the USA. However, American biologist Judith Ramaley, then assistant director of education and human resources at the NSF (U.S. National Science Foundation), rearranged the word order and formed the acronym STEM.
STEM Education Initiative was created as a concept and set of educational methods that aim to provide all students with critical thinking skills and make them creative in solving problems, innovative and sought-after workforce in the labor market. STEM removes traditional barriers between these four disciplines, integrating four subjects into one cohesion curriculum (White, 2014).
STEM is an interdisciplinary approach to learning where rigorous academic concepts are linked to real-world lessons. Students apply science, technology, engineering and mathematics in contexts that create a link between school, community, business and global enterprise, enabling the development of STEM literacy, and thus the ability to compete in the modern economy.
The goals of the STE (A) M movement are to transform education and to encourage the integration of art and design into the school curriculum. Art is more broadly defined by providing different functionalities and interdisciplinary connections between the four initial pillars of STEM. Thus, it can represent the language and philological sciences used to communicate and share new knowledge, physical activity – sports, dance and physical expression, fine arts, which contribute to understanding the cultural differences of past and present, music, through knowledge of rhythm and harmony are also directly related to mathematics, as well as history, psychology, philosophy, aesthetics, ergonomics and finally, reading through human activities that can be part of science, aesthetic creation or physical expression.
In education, interdisciplinary teaching refers to teaching in various subjects, based on the development of knowledge and skills, in order to enrich the entire educational experience. There are many benefits of an interdisciplinary approach, such as: helping students to think critically, developing lifelong learning and problem-solving skills, increasing the desire to learn, and developing communication and creativity. Although the word STEM can be interpreted as an abbreviation for Science, Technology, Engineering and Mathematics, it can also be treated as a whole, representing interdisciplinary teaching and learning in the natural sciences.
Although STEM subjects are included in the curricula in all European countries, the teaching of STEM subjects mainly refers to time dedicated to only one subject, and mostly according to studies, teachers do not work together. Consequently, students may not be able to combine and link knowledge acquired in more than one STEM or other subject. In this regard, it is necessary to address the lack of integrated STEM teaching by creating and testing a conceptual frame of reference for integrated STE (A) M education.
“Technology is a gift from God. After life, this is perhaps God’s greatest gift. She gave birth to civilizations, arts and sciences. “
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There is no clear consensus on which skills should be included in the 21st century skills category. Dr Tony Wagner from Harvard identified the so-called The “global achievement gap” between what is taught in the best schools and the skills that young people need to possess in the future. He defined 7 “survival” skills, to help young people prepare for the 4.0 industrial revolution. Those are:
“STEM education is an interdisciplinary approach to learning where rigorous academic concepts are linked to real lessons while students apply science, technology, engineering and mathematics in contexts that form links between school, community, work and the global enterprise that enables STEM literacy development and with it the ability to competes in the new economy “ Tsupros, 2009.
STEM has evolved exponentially in new human history. We have become experienced users of technology, but most of us do not really understand the scientific discoveries of the everyday objects we use.
If we look back, we will notice that STEM was present very early. Approximately 3,000 BC man invented the wheel. Using the laws of physics, this great invention made people’s daily lives easier, while today it is the basis of most of the machines we use every day. The hard work of human hands in production was replaced by machines during the first industrial revolution in the second half of the 18th century, which led to an increase in industrial production. The most important STEM invention was the steam engine. In addition to many large factories, new cities were established, which resulted in the development of new modes of transport, such as steamboats and steam locomotives. Important energy sources came with the discovery of oil and electricity in the mid-19th century. The period of the second industrial revolution followed – a period of great progress in science and many discoveries without which we cannot imagine today’s life – light bulb, telephone, aircraft, radio, etc. During this period, the greatest discoveries were in the field of medicine – the discovery of penicillin, an antibiotic that saved millions of lives. The second half of the 20th century brings the period of the third industrial revolution, which is based on further digitalization of machines, which leads to an increase in mass production. The third revolution had a great impact on the media, with the advent of the Internet, but it also affected jobs in production. Most of the work previously done by factory employees was taken over by engineers, IT experts and designers. Therefore, new technologies require different skills.
In everyday life we can see, touch and use hundreds or maybe thousands of products, applications and devices that have become thanks to STEM. Some of them are really easy to spot: for example, STEM helps us connect with people from all over the world via the Internet, telephone, etc. Thanks to new scientific methods, more powerful parts of agricultural machines are created, genetically produced hybrid plants produce more food, and new, stronger fertilizers are developed every day. Chemists are also improving and creating new packaging materials, such as plant “plastic”, which is more environmentally friendly. Moreover, engineers have managed to produce clean energy using renewable sources. Civil engineers design buildings, roads, bridges, airports, sewers and railways more efficiently, with greater durability in natural disasters such as earthquakes or floods, using STEM. Also, biologists, doctors and medical staff help improve our health and well-being. Now medicine can cure diseases that, not so long ago, were fatal. For example, polio has affected millions of people since prehistoric times and has led many to death, by the middle of the 20th century and the invention of polio vaccines.
Quoting Bernard Mara: “We are on the threshold of the Fourth Industrial Revolution or Industry 4.0.” Humanity is on the verge of gaining all the benefits of Artificial Intelligence (AI) as a commodity, but this also raises some questions:
Does the availability of AI mean that people will be completely displaced in factories and if so, how to prepare for future skills?
Will handmade obsolete and whether the skills of laborers become unnecessary?