STEM vs STEAM debate: A concise guide to Parents

STEM vs STEAM Children Playing with STEM Toys

In the last decade or so, there has been huge worldwide interest in STEM and affiliated programs and products. STEM of course stands for Science, Technology, Engineering & Mathematics. There is also an interesting debate on STEM vs STEAM (A for Art), which we will discuss in detail in this blog.

Why STEM is Important?

STEM education, programs and products are trying to bring out an important change in the way the above subjects are being taught by educators and learnt by students. Currently S, T, E and M subjects and concepts are being taught discretely and individually. An integrated STEM approach aims to change this. There is a lot of gain by viewing these subjects from a holistic perspective. It aims to help both the educator and learner to view these as integrated and inter-related subjects.[1]

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STEM vs STEAM: Adding ‘A’ in STEM

Recently, there has been a strong push and advocacy that this acronym should further be extended to STEAM to include A for ‘Arts’[2]. There have been other relatively minor attempts to include Music and Reading into the STEM acronym as well. This push to make STEM into STEAM has had quite a few detractors who argue that such a move would be counter-productive. Let us try and understand the STEM vs STEAM debate more from both the perspectives.

Arguments in favor of STEAM

  1. Real world applications of STEM need a great understanding of Product thinking and Design thinking.[7] Be it ergonomics or usability of the product, the practitioner of STEM needs to understand design concepts for a better outcome.
  2. Could make STEM more accessible even to those students or learners who may not have the inclination or desire to pursue a career in the STEM.[8]
  3. Many students are giving up on a career in STEM.[9] STEAM could be a possible solution to reduce the drop-out rates in STEM.
  4. STEM programs are unable to foster exploration into areas of creativity and innovation. STEAM allows development of skills that are in need for the real world economy.[10]

Arguments against STEAM

Multiple arguments have been put forward against the introduction of ‘A’ into the STEM, such as:

  1. Introducing ‘Arts’ into STEM would be a distraction if the objective is to develop basic STEM literacy in a significant portion of the population[3]. This is especially true since the main objectives of promoting STEM literacy in the general population are far from being met.[4]
  2. The student engagement with regards to STEM programs and products is still at very low levels. By pre-maturely introducing Arts into the midst of things could dilute the focus needed for improving student engagement and learning outcomes.[5]
  3. Introduction of ‘A’, would reduce the coherence of the acronym and defeat the original purpose.[6] In this view, Art could be an area where STEM can be applied and nothing more, just like music or agriculture. The argument is that S, T, E, and M are naturally aligned and inter-connected, unlike Arts.

So where do we stand in this debate? Well, the truth is that we do not have a particularly strong position on either side of the STEM vs STEAM debate. We do see merits in arguments on both the sides.

iraparenting.com is a complete parenting destination site for parents with children in the age group of 2-6 years. At Ira, we believe that informed parenting is the best type there is. To know more about us, click here. Also, please explore our lra Learning products, which have been designed by experts. Our learning methodology will resonate with you.

STEM and India: A sad situation!

Having said that, we are particularly concerned about the state of STEM programs and products available to the Indian child. Many of these so-called STEM products available to the Indian children are of poor quality, poorly conceived and designed and have little or no impact on learning outcomes. The STEM should not be a fad or marketing gimmick for selling substandard products and programs. If we are to do justice to it, STEM philosophy should guide us in developing appropriate pedagogical frameworks and apply them in the design of programs and products, leading to tangible learning outcomes.

Summary:
  • STEM  stands for Science, Technology, Engineering & Mathematics.
  • Currently S, T, E and M subjects are taught individually but STEM approach wants educators and children to view these subjects from a holistic perspective.
  • Recently, there has been a strong push to include A for ‘Arts’ in the acronym and extend STEM to STEAM. But not everyone is convinced about this.
  • This blog explores the STEM vs STEAM debate and looks at both the points of view.

iraparenting.com is a complete parenting destination site for parents with children in the age group of 2-6 years. At Ira, we believe that informed parenting is the best type there is. To know more about us, click here. Also, please explore our lra Learning products, which have been designed by experts. Our learning methodology will resonate with you.

We would love to Hear from You!

Let us know what’s your opinion on this debate STEM vs STEAM.

Please share your thoughts in the commenting section below.

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