Young children have been likened to sponges due to their ability to learn new things and adopt new behaviors with every experience. So, the importance of early childhood education is considered a significant factor that eventually forms the basis of their lifelong journeys.
However, there is a constant debate about what subjects should be included in a child’s education. In the past, the early childhood curriculum focused primarily on playing, building relationships, physicality and familial elements. However, with 21st-century skills, including media and technology literacy, there is a need to develop a more sophisticated curriculum that features relevant subjects.
Today, STEM subjects have become a platform through which children can gain an excellent introduction to critical skills that prepare them to be innovative. With investors actively seeking ways to boost summer learning, especially in STEM subjects, these subjects are important to a child’s early development.
What are STEM subjects?
STEM stands for science, technology, engineering and mathematics, and refers to any subjects that fall under these four disciplines. The acronym was initially derived from dialogues on the lack of qualified graduates available to fill high-tech jobs in the US. After its creation, governments and institutions have prioritized STEM subjects at different levels, including early childhood education.
The world as we know it has become heavily reliant on STEM. In fact, the demand for STEM skills has risen dramatically, with about 3.5 million vacant US STEM jobs by 2025. As a result, there is a need for students to obtain quality knowledge to address the rapid changes and challenges the world is facing.
Why is STEM important to a child’s development?
Young children have active imaginations, and this is evident in their future career choices, from astronauts to engineers, doctors and even video game developers. However, more often than not, they have no idea these are all STEM careers.
In 2017, Randstad surveyed students between the ages of 11 and 17, and the result of this survey further highlighted the need for STEM subjects to be widely adopted at every level of education. The survey, carried out among 1,000 respondents, showed that:
- 76% did not know what exactly engineers do
- 87% attributed STEM subjects to complex career paths in companies such as NASA
- 47% did not recognize engineering jobs or see the need for mathematics in different aspects
- 49% were unaware of any mathematics-related career or the importance of math in jobs such as fashion design
Aside from children, students are in the dark about how financially profitable STEM careers can be. However, including STEM subjects in early childhood education goes beyond securing STEM careers. The skills obtained from STEM education are essential throughout students’ lives. Here are some ways STEM subjects positively impact a child’s early development:
- STEM subjects encourage critical thinking
The ability to think critically allows young children to create better connections and understand problems that might seem vague. Critical thinking skills offered by these subjects also allow kids to collaborate effectively and become imaginative and innovative in solving complex problems.
There is a general acceptance of how theoretical STEM subjects can be. As a result, different programs, such as summer learning camps and after-school clubs, are introduced to encourage learners to familiarize themselves more with these subjects.
- STEM can foster increased economic stability
Financial security is a significant concern among young adults. Despite geographical diversity, many people face the same economic challenges, most of which stem from their lack of proficiency in STEM subjects.
Having a solid background in STEM subjects, especially mathematics and science, can go a long way in helping kids become mature enough to ensure long-term financial security. Additionally, STEM professionals have been found to earn 30% more in comparison to other career paths. So, STEM education can help limit economic inconsistency and social wealth gaps.
- STEM subjects help young children make connections between core subjects
While some people consider STEM subjects as four separate entities, the real potential of STEM-based education combines all subjects into a multi-disciplinary viewpoint. This makes it possible for kids to identify the connection between different fields early on.
With STEM education, students can recognize the link between mathematics and engineering and how science and technology function hand in hand. The capacity to hybridize ideas from multiple disciplines helps one develop a better understanding and increased competency in problem-solving.
- STEM subjects promote entrepreneurism
Every successful venture has a modest start and is a product of dedication, motivation and quality decisions. In ensuring the new generation also builds these sustainable characteristics, STEM education has become a priority across various levels of education.
The government, educators and other relevant stakeholders have recognized how effective STEM-based education at elementary and middle school levels can lead to true innovation, thereby creating a platform for sustainable growth and productivity.
Aside from these benefits, there are numerous skills that kids can obtain from a STEM-based education, including decision-making, leadership qualities, curiosity, creativity and perseverance. Regardless of the career path that kids eventually embark on, these skills are transferable and help prepare them for success.
Having highlighted the importance of STEM subjects in a child’s early development, it’s worth noting that not all educators have the skills to undertake leadership roles or serve as STEM trainers and mentors. If you are one such educator, there is an opportunity to gain the relevant competency through an advanced degree.
The University of Exeter offers a Master of Arts in Education program for experienced educators looking to advance in their careers. Exeter’s MA Education online program is also ideal for students who wish to pursue a career in education. Any professional interested in leadership and management in the education sector can benefit from this program.
We live in an ever-changing world, and it’s essential we keep pace with it. STEM-based education transforms society by offering learners a new perspective and a range of skills valued in any profession. In truth, the opportunities provided by STEM education build an economy that enhances sustainable literacy among all residents.