In recent decades, our society has changed substantially. Responses to this large-scale social change have been varied and from various quarters.
Educational systems have modified their orientation to focus on the development of basic skills that allow citizens to function in their social environment. These abilities are identified with a series of competencies that go beyond theoretical knowledge, and that encompass both knowing how to do and knowing how to be in our society.
Among these fundamental skills we find those related to science, technology, engineering and mathematics, called STEM skills (acronym for the terms Science, Technology, Engineering and Mathematics, STEM in English).
Social and economic development
Different works coincide in pointing out that the increase in scientific, mathematical and technological skills in citizens results in greater social and economic development , both personally and for society as a whole .
The promotion of STEM skills in Europe has allowed the average number of graduates in higher education to increase by 2.5 percentage points per 1,000 inhabitants between the ages of 20 and 29, from 18.5% in 2014 to 21% in the year 2020.
In Latin America and the Caribbean, greater efforts are required, since, despite the fact that we are talking about studies related to professions with higher incomes, the reports of the National Science Foundation and the OECD reflect a greater presence of countries in this area in bottom of the list to the top for STEM college graduates.
The region lags behind in STEM fields of study, mainly in the physical, biological, mathematical and statistical sciences, with enrollment rates hovering around 2% compared to countries such as the United Kingdom, India or the United States of America. , ranging from 10% to 18%.
Understand the environment
The educational curriculum in Spain, following the EU prescriptions, has included the competence in mathematics and in science, technology and engineering as one of its key competences .
This competence helps to understand the environment and the events that occur in it from a global perspective. At the base of the STEM competences we find skills such as the understanding and application of mathematical logical reasoning, observation, experimentation, analysis, synthesis, design and computational thinking, among others. These skills are key to explaining, understanding, developing or solving the challenges that our society faces.
Although the importance that STEM skills have in our society is evident, this evidence is not so generalizable when it comes to tackling their development.
It is clear that this is a complex problem with multiple perspectives. However, we propose below ten actions that contribute to the development and acquisition of STEM skills in the stages of Primary and Secondary education:
1. Train teachers
Teachers make the difference . Therefore, we must begin by providing teachers with the means to train, design and put into operation active methodologies that favor rapprochement and arouse the interest of students in STEM fields.
2. New methodologies in the classroom
Using methodologies such as inquiry learning helps students find causal relationships between phenomena. Observation, experiments and the use of technological resources allow experimenting and learning in a practical and meaningful way.
3. Learning situations
Integrate into learning situations components that favor collaboration, cooperation, communication skills and fundamental transversal competences. With these situations, the participation of students in the construction of their learning is encouraged.
4. Global approach
Approach the development of STEM skills from a global perspective and not in a segmented way. The acquisition and development of STEM skills in an integrated way improves student outcomes , motivation to learn and increases professional interest in STEM.
5. Evaluate students and centers
Develop evaluation tools and systems that allow knowing the progress of students in relation to the process of acquiring STEM skills from a global perspective.
The educational administrations have to establish a series of parameters and referents that allow knowing and categorizing the level of performance of an educational center in relation to STEM skills .
In both cases, these systems will contribute to the establishment of objectives and improvement plans, by virtue of the results achieved.
6. Transversal perspective
The development of CETIAM proposals (STEM plus the A for art), which include artistic and design perspectives , as well as integration into broader approaches, such as the so-called SHAPE (in English, Social Sciences, Humanities and Art for People and for the Economy) promote the understanding of ourselves, of others, as well as of the world and the phenomena that surround us.
7. Promote the participation of girls
There is a traditional bias that makes women , ethnic minorities and members of the lowest socioeconomic strata have less presence in studies and professions related to STEM disciplines.
Resources and opportunities must be available to all students, regardless of their status. In this sense, it is important to make visible and promote the participation of these groups, contributing to the elimination of gender, racial and socioeconomic stereotypes.
8. Bring the real world to the school
Collaborate with associations, companies and institutions in the STEM field that present students with challenges, challenges and real problems whose solution requires the implementation of their skills and knowledge in the STEM field . These collaborations are also a great opportunity for students to develop their entrepreneurial skills in real contexts.
9. Raise awareness among families
Families and the social environment should be aware of the importance of STEM skills in the personal and professional development of students. This approach favors collaboration and dialogue between the main actors responsible for the education of young people.
10. Informal learning
Promote the acquisition of learning beyond the official curriculum. Encourage student participation in extracurricular activities ( workshops , clubs , projects , etc.) in which they can delve into topics of interest and develop their creativity and curiosity.
Author Bios: Laura Estevez-Mauriz is a PhD Assistant Professor in the area of Applied Physics and Roberto Baelo Alvarez is a Professor of the area of Didactics and School Organization both at the University of León