STEM to STEAM


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Over the years, a lot of relevance and emphasis has been put on STEM subjects (science, technology, engineering, and mathematics) over art related studies. This is because STEM is considered the future of innovation and has been at the epicenter of all technological and science advancements to date. However, proponents of Arts studies have fought to incorporate the A in STEM.

The proponents of STEAM (science, technology, engineering, arts, and mathematics) aim to transform research policy by incorporating Art and design into STEM. Furthermore, the STEAM movement is pushing for the integration of art in K-20 education and is influencing employers to hire designers and artists to drive innovation. Clearly, the arts will play a critical role not only in the education system in the U.S. but also in the country’s economy. To learn more, checkout the infographic below created by Kent State University’s Online Masters in Music Education program.

An infographic about The Drive for STEAM in the U.S Education System and Future Economy by Kent State University.

Factors Driving the Need for STEM

The growth of STEM-related jobs is three times faster than the growth of non-STEM-related jobs. By 2018, engineering and other science-related jobs are expected to reach 8.6 million, up from 7.4 million recorded in 2012.

Unfortunately, the statistics for STEM subjects and related careers are not commensurate with the requirements of the industry and economy at large. Of all the high school graduates, only 44 percent are prepared for college-level mathematics. Today, nearly half of the fastest-growing jobs in the country require postsecondary education, with this number expected to rise to 63 percent by 2018. It is alarming that many high school graduates are not prepared to tackle college math.

Furthermore, only four percent of the bachelor’s degrees awarded in the U.S. were in engineering while China recorded up to 31 percent of engineering degrees.

The Degree Retention Rate of STEM

The country is continually recording low STEM degree retention rates and it is pertinent to encourage more students to take up these subjects not only in college but also in high school. Only one in four high school first-year students is interested in taking STEM subjects. This figure is considerably low given the fact that science related courses are vital to technological advancements and innovations.

In addition, by the time students majoring in STEM graduate, 60 percent will have inevitably changed their minds about completing their majors and take up another subject.

Of all the students who start a STEM major in college, 38 percent fail to graduate with one. At least 40 percent of college students who take a STEM major transfer to other courses between four and five years after starting out. This significantly reduces the number of students who graduate with a STEM degree.

Importance of the Arts to STEM

Although STEM subjects are necessary for scientific and technological progress, without the arts, it is impossible for students to reach their full potential. This is because art and design subjects give students the freedom to be creative and enjoy the capabilities and potential of STEM. The figures collected from numerous studies already paint a grim future for STEM subjects and careers in the United States.

The relevance of art subjects cannot be overstated enough. Various independent studies have revealed that art students have a higher chance of being recognized for their academic achievement. Furthermore, art students have a higher likelihood of receiving school attendance awards. This shows that art students are self-driven and motivated in their studies.

The arts are also essential in boosting school grades and SATs scores. One study revealed that there was a 98 point difference between students who studied arts throughout their high school years and those who studied for only half a year. Furthermore, students studying music appreciation saw higher point scores in their math and verbal sections. They scored 42 and 61 points higher respectively.

Art studies leave a positive impact that lasts a lifetime. The positive results are sometimes seen years after studying these subjects. A good example is noted in a study that found an interesting correlation between art and career advancements in future. The study revealed that STEM students who successfully filed for patents or opened their businesses were exposed to art studies as children. In fact, they were eight times more likely to have studied the arts as young children compared to the average person.

93 percent of Americans are in agreement that art subjects are important because they provide a well-rounded education experience for children. Moreover, 86 percent of Americans also agree that an effective arts education motivates and improves a student’s attitude towards school. This leads to greater student participation in schoolwork and overall improvement of their grades.

Why STEAM is Essential

Training and studying the arts helps students to build essential interpretative skills. This goes a long way in developing a student’s creativity. When STEM is successfully combined with art studies via mutually reinforced objectives, students can learn both areas easily. This is because the arts infuse creativity and interest into a student’s learning process.

Studying art subjects contributes to the development of essential skills like cross-cultural, social, problem solving, and critical thinking. It also enhances a student’s flexibility, adaptability, creativity, and innovation. All these skills are required for a successful career in any field of study.

Incorporating STEAM in the U.S.

It is equally important to emphasize both the arts and STEM subjects because all evidence suggests that the two are mutually beneficial. In one STEM guitar workshop, qualified guitar instructors were taught how to construct a solid body guitar. The 5-day workshop disseminated knowledge on engineering, mathematics, basic physics, and electricity in the guise of woodwork. This proves that interest generated by the arts can indeed be transferred to STEM subjects.

Today, the relevance of the arts is increasingly gaining mainstream recognition as a primary academic subject. Already, 48 states have adopted set standards of learning these subjects. However, despite the increased focus on incorporating the arts within STEM, at least 51 percent of art teachers still feel that the focus of the curriculum is shifting towards STEM subjects.

STEAM suggests that people can become better mathematicians, engineers, and scientists by thinking artistically. At the same time, this new curriculum engages artists by showing them how to incorporate STEM into their work.

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