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ENGAGING OUR  CHILDREN with STEM + 4Cs

Worldwide, the jobs of the 21st Century require a quality education, including strong science, technology, engineering, and math (STEM) curricula. A robust STEM education creates critical thinkers, problem solvers, and produces the next generation of innovators.  This change is critical for our schools, educators and students, as it is for our countries, industries and planet. But we parents need to do our part to enable our kids in exploring opportunities to impart this knowledge for kids .  I often hear questions like  “why ?”, “Is it not too early ?”, “Should n’t the schools be teaching it ?”.   I wanted to share my perspective on it as a STEM enthusiast and more importantly as a parent

Why is STEM education so important ? 

A 2017 study by Mckinsey Global Institute points out that in next 10- 15 years up to 30% of jobs that exist currently will be replaced by Artificial Intelligence  and automation . 75 -375 million workers will need to switch occupational categories  .  Financial advisers getting replaced by Robo advisors,  drivers getting replaced by autonomous cars, print media replaced by digital technologies  are all real life examples of this transition happening right now in front of our eyes . With the pace of technological growth we have, one can only imagine what would happen in next 10 years . Imagine the job as an App developer for mobile smart phones. This wasn’t a job that anyone necessarily imagined a couple decades ago.  Our kids will be graduating into this reality and it is our responsibility as parents and teachers to build the strong foundation for next generation

What this means is that jobs of the future will change and many of them would require higher skills and higher education requirements .Last decade, STEM jobs grew at three times the rate of non-STEM jobs. The rest of this decade promises to be strong as well with STEM occupations expected to grow at double the rate of non-STEM occupations.   Sadly, our youth is not choosing STEM fields at a rate that would meet this demand growth. For example, computer sciences are expected to have about 1.4 million new jobs in this decade but only 400,000 graduates to fill those jobs.

But beyond this there is a stronger need to build stronger economy supported by new innovations and businesses. This calls for  critical thinkers, problem solvers, and the next generation of innovators  born out of Canada .  In the last decade use of computer or smart phone was a novelty. Now it is a necessity. We need to move our kids from being the smart consumers of technology to become the smart  creators of the technology. We need to make the kind of investments that America made in technical education during heights of space war in 1960s. That investment resulted in likes of Steve Jobs and Bill Gates and created the Silicon Valley we know today.   

STEM  + 4Cs

   

The competencies tomorrow need a strong technical foundation . Our kids need to be exposed to STEM contents that are not covered in school curriculum as early as possible .  Kids starts forming opinions about these as early as 9 years . The sooner they develop interest in STEM subjects , better are chances that they pursue  STEM education and STEM career . Students can master – and create – technologies of the future more than we can imagine.  Its just that we need to enable and  let them do it .  In my view learning a programming language  is like learning another language regardless of the career our kids want to explore . Its becoming a necessity in all kind of jobs from financial industry to creative artists . It surely is going to open more doors and let them explore avenue that our kids were hesitant to explore .

In addition to the scientific and technical education, students need to excel in four broad areas: 1) Critical thinking and problem solving; 2)Creativity, Innovation and entrepreneurship; 3) Collaboration; 4) Communication; Add to this global citizenship and sustainability. These global competencies are applicable to every workplace and every function. Our approach to STEM education should be focusing on these skills as well . 

How do get our kids ready for this ?  Where do we go from here?

There are  multiple points of entry to STEM knowledge. Some are obvious , but some others require passion and effort from us parents

School : Teachers recognize kid’s  talent and passion more than anyone as  they  work every day with them   Teachers can create a very positive STEM experience through the context of scientific education imparted in the schools. But the teaching needs to evolve from being teaching the not just the ‘what’ of scientific principles but the whys and the hows also . Our educational system needs significant uplift for this .  Our policy makers and administrators are paying attention to this and there are steps in right direction, but time is of essence .

Home : Where possible parents need to engage the kids and help them explore various scientific  concepts . Relating to  Chemistry and Math  in Kitchen , Using Engineering Design Process in designing and making your backyard  or by challenging them to find out how day to day things work are simple ways to impart scientific education to kids . There are plenty of resources available in our digital world for a variety of STEM topics .it’s a matter of us thinking this is important for kids  and spending time and effort to focus their effort towards it

Extra curricular activities : When the gaps exist in our educational system we need to leverage the outside opportunities that exist . We need to start realizing that STEM is also an essential skill like music, dancing or sports that require additional nurturing outside the school. Parents needs to identify opportunities where kids can experience , appreciate and  start liking the STEM subjects.  It could be as simple as attending available programs in library to visiting places like Science Centre . Kids could get the much needed exposure to STEM from various camps or afterschool programs and its imperative that parents do consider this as necessity.

STEM education is no longer an optional topic at school but becoming a necessity of future . It should form a core activity what we want our kids to be exposed to .  No one else can do that more than us parents.

About Author  : Lee Joseph is Director of STEM for Kids-GTA and Vice President-Product at Figcube .  He is technologist with over 20 years of experience in technology industry providing technology consulting services large companies. He is proud parent of 10 year old in DDSB and passionate advocate for STEM education .

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