If you live in Singapore, you have probably heard a lot about STEM education.
STEM education was implemented in Singapore six years ago, and ever since then, more and more parents have been enrolling their children into the program; and many have been doing it as early as preschool.
Read Today Online's report: More schools to offer programme in science, maths, tech by 2017
But what is STEM education exactly? What benefits does it bring to your child?
Before you make an important decision that may affect your child’s life, it is important to understand STEM education.
So if you want to find out why STEM education is crucial for your child, and if it is necessary to introduce the child to STEM from a very early age, keep reading.
Defining STEM education.
The acronym STEM stands for science, technology, engineering, and mathematics. It is a specially designed curriculum that provides students with extensive knowledge in the aforementioned fields. Singaporean version of STEM education integrates these four subjects into one cohesive model.
The Singapore Science Center and the Ministry of Education are collaborating to improve STEM education in Singapore and make sure that students are able to get the best results by participating in the program. In Singapore, students are introduced to STEM education before they even start school.
The goal of this approach is to give students a basic understanding of the model so that they are able to understand complex issues later on.
The importance of STEM education.
Being proficient in science, technology, engineering, and mathematics has always been important for the development of humanity, but it has probably never been more important than it is today in the 21st-century. The world today revolves around technology, and to remain competitive in the modern jobs market, Singaporean students need to develop these skills from a very young age.
The influence of technology is likely to increase in the future, so having the skills STEM education provides will be crucial for the majority of employees over the course of the next half a century.
In addition, as the world faces new environmental problems having a workforce that is proficient in science will enable us to create new green infrastructure. This will benefit the planet and subsequently benefit us. Also, by observing the course of human history, we can see that the population which is proficient in science is always more economically prosperous than the society that is not.
What is different about STEM education?
Traditionally students sit in a classroom and learn the material from textbooks. Educational methods employed in the STEM curriculum differ greatly from traditional educational methods. Here is how.
Traditionally students who learn from textbooks try to memorize a large amount of information with little regard to how it can be applied in real-world scenarios. By comparison, the STEM curriculum focuses on developing children’s practical skills and showing them how their knowledge can be used in real life. Also, the traditional approach to knowledge teachers students to memorize the facts and replicate them later on.
By contrast, STEM education builds creativity and helps the students reach logical conclusions through critical thinking. In the traditional educational system, the child learns mainly from books or by doing various assessments. By contrast, the stem curriculum focuses on practical experiments so that the students can explore their surroundings by themselves, which builds their natural curiosity.
These are the main differences between traditional education and STEM education. Now let’s examine the Singaporean version of STEM education in detail.
STEM education in Singapore - how does it work?
The first thing you need to understand is that introducing stem curriculums doesn’t mean a complete overhaul of the existing curriculum.
Firstly, it means exposing students to specific scientific vocabulary.
Also, the Ministry of Education encourages students to use computers and iPads during their lessons. This is already happening in many classrooms. By using these devices in the classroom every day, students become “digital natives,” and they will not have any problems using these or other internet-enabled devices in the future.
Another method used in STEM education is storytelling. Students are encouraged to read a story, find a problem, and come up with a creative solution to the issue.
In general, STEM education requires a student to identify a problem that exists in the real world, come up with a hypothesis, develop possible solutions, and explore further possibilities.
Why do children start STEM education at such a young age?
According to numerous studies getting students involved in STEM curriculum from a very young age helps them understand basic scientific principles and prepares their brains for accepting more complex scientific ideas later on in life.
The earlier you introduce your children to STEM education, the better the results will be. Not only will they be able to understand the basic principles of STEM subjects, but they will also be keen on those subjects because they have been introduced to them through fun, practical experiments.
In addition, it is believed that students who are introduced to technology at a young age generally do not have any problem keeping up with new technological innovations as they grow up. Pupils also develop their problem-solving skills and creativity, which will serve them well in all areas of life, not just in stem education.
As for the teachers, they should encourage their pupils to ask STEM-related questions in the classroom and help them develop their skills.
STEM jobs in high demand.
In general, students who accrued the benefits of STEM education end up having a decent career and securing well-paying jobs. In the world that is dominated by technology, students who are proficient in STEM subjects will do quite well for themselves financially. In fact, according to the projections, we are around 9 million STEM workers short, so the demand is there.
Also, a study conducted by the Department of Statistics of the United States shows that the STEM jobs' growth rate is approximately 17 % (compared to about 10% growth rate in other carriers).
But which STEM-related jobs are in demand the most? Some of them are system architect, mechanical engineer, data scientist, software engineer, actuary, electrical engineer, cybersecurity expert, petroleum engineer, and many more. People who are employed in these professions have salaries that can range from S$50,000 to S$100,000 per annum.
What is STEAM, and how is it different from STEM?
As we have already said, STEM curriculums are comprised of science, technology engineering, and mathematics. STEAM is the model that includes all of the aforementioned disciplines with the addition of arts. These two models exist simultaneously in the Singaporean education system.
What are the benefits of STEAM?
We have already seen what benefits STEM education brings. Now let’s see how the addition of arts helps your child succeed in life. According to one study, students who studied arts for an entire year in secondary schools usually score 98 points more on their SAT exam than students who only studied arts for half a year.
Also, the students who were involved in music, usually score 61 points more in the verbal section of the test, and 42 points more in the mathematical section. In addition, students who studied arts in school tend to be more creative and come up with innovative solutions. These students also tend to be more optimistic and have more enthusiasm for problem-solving, which is appreciated by employers.
STEAM and STEM programs in Singapore.
There are a number of different companies in Singapore that offer both STEAM and STEM programs to children. Here are just some of the programs you can find in Singapore.
In Wonders Work, children build their creativity by developing Lego robotics skills. This is a very practical and fun way to introduce children to STEM education.
Science Center Singapore is an excellent place for children whose age range is from 18 months to 8 years. In this center, children are introduced to basic principles of STEM education in a fun way, by playing in a safe environment.
There are also many schools in Singapore that offer STEM as well as STEAM programs. Let us examine some of them in detail.
1. Canadian International School. Website: www.cis.edu.sg
In this schSingaporean Chinesel, STEAM learning is part of the school's official curriculum. The students are introduced to STEAM education at the preschool level, and it remains part of the curriculum through grade 12. This school also offers additional co-curricular activities such as coding and robotics; and some fun activities such as Lego leagues. Canadian International School organizes annual STEAM fairs where parents can get a better idea of what their children have learned throughout the year and have a look at some of the projects their children have created.
2. EtonHouse International School. Website: www.etonhouse.com.sg
EtonHouse International School’s curriculum includes subjects like animation, programming, 3D gaming, coding, and other activities. In addition, students have access to specially equipped spaces around the campus where they can go to mend things. Moreover, EtonHouse International School of Singapore also incorporates cyberbullying and cybersecurity studies into their curriculum and teaches their students fundamental principles of ethical behavior.
3. GEMS World Academy. Website: www.gwa.edu.sg
GEMS World Academy is known for its innovations in STEM education. In this school, your child will have access to the latest research as well as the newest technology. The STEM curriculum at GEMS World Academy is designed for both primary and secondary education. By participating in the GEMS’ STEM curriculum, students develop their problem-solving skills in many different areas.
There are many other schools in Singapore that support both STEM and STEAM education.
Compared to other education methods, STEM education is relatively new; it keeps growing and developing every year, and some new trends emerge. Let’s have a look at some of the latest innovations in STEM education.
Teaching the teachers.
Since STEM education didn’t really exist back in the day when our teachers went to university, some of them may be unfamiliar with this model. According to the SAM Lab’s report, four in five teachers say that the training they currently have is insufficient, and doesn’t enable them to teach
STEM curriculum as well as they possibly could. It is obvious that teachers themselves need some help when it comes to incorporating STEM curriculum into the learning process.
STEM in other subjects.
STEM curriculum is gaining momentum in Singapore, which means that soon the principles of STEM education may be incorporated into the subjects that are not scientific in nature. To put it in another way, the STEM method could be incorporated into subjects such as English, history, social studies, etc.
Should parents get involved?
In order to achieve better academic outcomes, it is important to involve the parents in their children’s education. It is a good idea for schools to create special involvement programs for parents and allow them to keep an eye on their children’s STEM education.
Stem activities for children.
One of the simplest ways to teach your young children mathematics is by playing a game that requires them to match the numbers written on sticky notes to the numbers written on the board.
If you want your child to grasp the basics of coding, then you may encourage them to code in the Lego maze. With the addition of various printable materials such as mazes and instruction cards of the aim is to help the Lego figurine find their way out of the maze.
If you have some cups, a hanger, and a string, you can create a simple balance scale and encourage your child to conduct experiments with different weights.
To conclude, the benefits of STEM education are vast. It encourages children to experiment and builds their curiosity. Children may also be involved in a group STEM project, which will definitely encourage teamwork and cooperation.
Also, children are encouraged to apply their knowledge in real-life situations and to use technology to solve problems. All of this will undoubtedly benefit them in the future.
So if you were worried about whether the STEM system is the right choice for your child, rest assured. Now that you have read about all of the benefits this system brings, hopefully, you have been convinced of its effectiveness.
"STEM education in Singapore: What you need to know" by The Asianparent Singapore
"42 secondary schools to offer new programme for students to learn science and technology", by Straits Times