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Why do we need STEM?

Our dependence on the products of innovation: Science, Technology, Engineering, Mathematics

Like millions of other Australians, today I woke up swiping my phone to hush my preference of melody on my alarm; I then switched on the heating. I listened to a podcast from my charging phone playing from a speaker as I boiled the kettle and microwaved my oats. I scrolled through social media and news sites on my laptop as I ate my breakfast, then loaded and set the dishwasher before using my electric toothbrush and heading out the door to drive to work.

As a child I was an avid reader of fiction and continued to live and breathe English throughout schooling and into higher education. I never cared much for science and with an education system that focused time and resources into literacy and maths, this suited me well. If my primary schooling were a narrative, literacy and numeracy were the main characters and by comparison science was a slightly interesting character that appeared occasionally but was not integral to the plot. This (thankfully) has changed in recent times because my science education does not match the sea of science and technology that I swim through in my mundane morning routine, my life, my study and my work on a daily basis.

Gears! Super Set

STEM has become a hot topic over the last couple of years. The Australian Government has recognised a need to prioritise teaching science, technology, engineering and mathematics in schools in a cross-curricular way. This approach to learning replicates the overlapping multiplicity of capacities that STEM manifests itself in all arenas of modern life.  Moreover, it is unreasonable for even an English-major like myself to be science-phobic because the very lifestyle that a modern Australian lives and will grow into requires at the very least that they harbour the literacy to be able to engage with the world in which they live. Despite occupations in astronomy, astrophysics and chemical engineering being wonderful prospects (and possible through a STEM-based education), the real necessity students need to draw from a school-based education today is that they become scientifically-literate citizens.

The accessibility and usability of technology in the modern times in which we live, means that appreciating it is easy. As a ‘non-sciency’ type, I am now more than ever fascinated with and immensely dependent on the products of innovation in my day-to-day life. Innovation is the product of wonder, fascination, creativity, logic, reason, experimentation and problem-solving, which all STEM from curiosity. Curiosity inhibits the mind of young children and as Carl Sagon, an American academic, astronomer and scientist famously quoted, ‘every kid starts out as a natural-born scientist’. Children are inquisitive and are constantly developing skills and innovations to understand the world around them and live within in it. Prioritising STEM in school builds upon the innate curiosity of children and fulfils an obligation we have to provide an education that prepares our children for the future that they will live and work in.

 

Written by Rebecca Worthy

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