Monday, February 27, 2012

Understand, Use and Love Science and Technology (STEM)

Let me start by welcoming the 16 new Influential Voices bloggers of ASQ. Interestingly, Paul refers to us, the continuing 13 bloggers, as ‘digitally active quality professionals’. While the length of influential voices blogroll has grown big this year, Paul has selected a relatively bigger topic for this month’s discussion – How to understand, use and love STEM (Science, Technology, Engineering and Math).

United States may be number 1 when it comes to technology and innovation, but was ranked 24th (out of 29 countries) in math literacy, falling behind countries such as Czech Republic and New Zealand. The worrying point, to be noted here, is that if future American workers are not as educated as in Europe and Asia, the US won’t be able to compete in the world economy. The whole standard of living might come down as people will struggle to get good and high paying jobs.

On the other hand, Indian undergraduate universities are said to be producing about 600,000 Engineers every year when compared to the 84,000 in the US. About 70 per cent of US PhD students are foreign born and are often hired in the US, who then join a Silicon Valley company or government agencies such as NASA, says, a Gartner analyst. US universities produce fewer engineers to meet the industry demand, thus having the need to hire foreign skilled workers to fill jobs in the US.

The topic, STEM has gained much importance when President Obama recently hosted the White House Science Fair and spoke to students, parents and teachers on – “How America should increase its investment in the science, technology, engineering and math fields”. Now, comes the big question, how to improve STEM education. Here, I would like to share some of my thoughts on the factors that may help:

1. The Teacher – The teacher and his/her involvement is one of the most important factors. The involvement shown by the teacher brings a lot of confidence and interest in the student. The teacher must create a learning atmosphere that is calm and joyful.

2. The School – The school should make science education simple and as practical as possible. While teaching theory, students also should be motivated to do practical examples and puzzles. Laboratories should be well equipped for the students to try out experiments.  This way, learning becomes more effective. Scoring system should also be designed to properly evaluate the students and, in turn, help them improve as well.

3. The Curriculum –The teaching methodology and course curriculum should go hand-on-hand. As a student moves from one class to another bigger class, the curriculum should be connected properly to ensure smooth transition. This will make the student more comfortable to learn advanced topics. Curriculum must have the right mixture of theory, practicals and examinations.

4. The Parent – At home, the parents must watch, guide and motivate their children (students). Mother and Father are, most times, the first and best teachers.  Parent must meet the Teacher regularly to obtain feedback about the student's studies and progress.  

5. The Government – Government must make STEM education mandatory at various school levels. Adequate focus and funding should be allocated to develop necessary infrastructure to impart STEM education and create excellent faculty.  Parents who can not afford STEM education should be provided with stimulus or appropriate financial support.

6. The Industry – Academia and industry must work together such that the student gets to see and understand real life scenarios and examples. It is always better to learn by doing than seeing.  Teachers should be provided with opportunities to work in the industry and learn.

7. The Student – Last but not the least, students should put their best self. The student should focus to develop his emotional intelligence and ability to plan and learn. With the above listed factors, if applied properly, students can be motivated to learn and, also, love STEM.

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