Samantha Donaldson


STEM Education: Where It Stands and Why It Is Crucial to the Future of America

In classrooms across the nation, young individuals are told on a daily basis they can be whatever they want to be in this world. These young minds are full of hopes and dreams and are determined to become the astronauts and doctors they pretend to be on the playground every day. However, for some of these young students in rural and underfunded parts of our nation, these hopes and dreams are all too often lost in the mix as they focus on a curriculum that is otherwise useless to them or outdated in the long run.

Despite this bleak reality, there are many who stand for the higher education of our youth and the implementation of STEM programs, which will enable them to learn more in-depth about the positions and knowledge necessary to achieve these dreams and garner credibility from an early age in the job fields that excite them and motivate them on a daily basis. Although these programs are still not provided to various regions in our nation,they continue to prove their importance and crucial part with which they plays in the future of our society, our economy, and our job market each and every step of the way. In fact, according to U.S. News, STEM education is the key to the U.S.’s economic failure.

Despite this, many people still question whether or not these programs are vital and what part they play in not only the improvement of education within our nation, but also the future of our economy. Therefore, it is important that we answer these questions in order to help the vast majority of Americans in understanding the need for STEM education in the United States. By doing this, we can push forward and create a nationwide STEM program that is fully-functional and efficient so as to formulate a more educated future generation and stimulate the areas of our job market which are in serious need of new promising prospects.

Why Is a Nationwide STEM Program So Vital?

As the statistics continue to prove, STEM programs enable students to learn not only about science, technology, engineering, and mathematics, but also about the future of our society and economy — as well as the drastic skills gap this program hopes to tackle head-on. In fact, according to Forbes Magazine, 70 percent of organizations cite “capability gaps” as one of their top five challenges. Similarly, according to Fortune magazine, there are currently 607,708 open computing jobs alone nationwide. On top of this, although 11 million US workers are unemployed, there are 4 million jobs currently unfilled — most of which are in the STEM field.

With a clear and unsettling skills gap in our job market, the economy is the main part of our society which is taking a huge hit from this lack of experience and training. However, it can be hard to blame the job market and the economy when the education system currently in place in many rural cities and underfunded school districts simply does not fully equip their students with the education necessary to tackle these positions. However, the STEM education system which includes programming courses, various science courses, and physics courses functions as a proverbial “helping hand” for educators who find themselves struggling to provide their students with the means necessary to succeed in today’s jobforce.

By creating programs and classes that allow students to learn about the fields that are currently the most fruitful, you are not only creating a more informed and educated generation, but also a generation that is guaranteed to succeed in this modern era where technology, mathematics, and science reign supreme. Since the creation of STEM programs, multiple studies have shown improved test scores, improved grades, and more engagement in the schoolplace from students receiving a STEM-based education. On top of this, combined with after-school activities, it has been proven that these after-school programs actually further improve STEM knowledge in students.

Furthermore, for students that are located in underfunded districts or districts that are poverty-stricken, this allows these students an opportunity to take themselves out of these bad circumstances and provide for not only themselves but for their families as well. In fact, the average median hourly wage for STEM jobs is $37.44 which, compared to the median for all other types of jobs in America ($18.68), proves to be highly generous in nature.

However, in order to succeed in the STEM program initiative, we must first recognize the importance of early-age STEM programs and increase the reach of STEM education in our nation so as to include underfunded districts and rural areas as well.

The Future of STEM Programs: A Younger Start and a Broader Reach

The two main issues STEM programs currently face come in the form of the age these programs begin to be taught and the reach these programs currently have. Although many individuals believe that elementary school may be too early to begin STEM education, this is simply not accurate. In fact, according to a recent study, it has been shown that, through the implementation of STEM education in elementary schools, “Teachers can foster critical thinking through problem solving and provide students with an academic edge over the competition.”

However, some individuals even feel that science can be taught to preschool students and can help them to improve their critical thinking skills and expand their minds before ever reaching elementary school. For Meg Davis, manager of curriculum and content development for KinderCare Education, when asked whether or not she believed science for three-year-olds was possible, she stated, “Absolutely,” and went on to say, “Children are young scientists. They learn about the world around them through their senses. The key is to provide children with plenty of hands-on opportunities to explore science in a playful way.”

When it comes to low-income school districts that are all too often underfunded, STEM provides an opportunity to escape the cycle of poverty. The unfortunate truth is that low-income school districts in poverty-stricken neighborhoods face continual downgrades in education capabilities, leading to low graduation rates and students that simply aren’t engaged in their daily classes. However, the STEM program hopes to tackle this by not only giving these students the opportunity to have a fruitful future in our society, but also through engaging and fun classes that learners are excited to come to each and every day.

Despite this, it can often be difficult for these schools to find the appropriate funding in order to pursue STEM programs, yet many different organizations are currently tackling this concern and providing programming and code for low-income students, as well as computers, including Raspberry Pis, and various other forms of technology in order to help them succeed in their everyday life.

Lastly, the final barrier the STEM initiative currently faces is the rural education system, which is not only underfunded, but all too often rejects scientific education. In fact, nearly 60 million people reside in rural areas in America, and, within these areas, it is often found that there is a lack of funding, a lack of qualified teachers, and a lack of future-centric education programs. Although STEM continues to battle this factor, the challenges of teaching science in rural America are immense.

However, according to The Atlantic, there is one program that is making a difference in STEM education in rural America. They recently stated, “The Benedum Foundation works alongside educators, parents, and private-sector stakeholders like Chevron in the rural heart of the new energy economy that sits above the Marcellus shale formation. The foundation, which is based in Pittsburgh, collaborates with area schools, universities and employers to boost STEM’s role in the curriculum and students’ technical skills.”

Although the Benedum Foundation is only one of the myriads of programs hoping to increase the reach of STEM education in America, these programs continue to prove that the skills gap will soon be merely a thing of the past, and the education system hoping to tackle it is only beginning to gain traction. In the end, the lives of many young individuals will be changed forever and, perhaps, we will not only create a better future for our youth, but also a better education system — one that prides itself on teaching what is important rather than what is in the standard curriculum.

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