What is the purpose of Science, Technology, Engineering and Mathematics (STEM) in education? Many countries are pushing to integrate STEM education in K-12, but does it provide the skills that students need to flourish in the future world of work?
On 28 August 2019, at the 8th ADB International Skills Forum in Manila, the Philippines, The HEAD Foundation hosted a panel discussion on STEM education in K-12, moderated by Mr Vignesh Naidu, Director, Operations at The HEAD Foundation. Within the context of the forum’s theme of Skills and Jobs in the Age of Digital Disruptions, the session focused on how STEM education has been and can be integrated in schools, keeping in mind the fast-changing world students will face as they join the workforce.
On the panel were Dato’ Prof Dr Noraini Binti Idris, Chairman of the National STEM Movement in Malaysia, who talked about the experience of Malaysia in integrating communication and reasoning in STEM education, and how this can be an engine of growth for the country; Ms Suwanna Chivapruk, Director at Roong Aroon School in Thailand, who shared how a project-based STEM education enables her school to promote holistic, lifelong learning in its curriculum and teaching; and Prof Paul Teng, Dean and Managing Director at NIE International in Singapore, who discussed how STEM is already integrated into Singapore’s K-12 schooling because of certain labour and citizenship goals, and does not have to detract from the national curriculum when taught creatively.
The panel also exchanged thoughts on garnering support for STEM initiatives from parents through active engagement and how demonstrated pedagogies, whether through active learning or lifelong learning, can help students pick up lessons more easily.
For all panellists, STEM education goes beyond the teaching content of mathematics and science; it involves nurturing inquiring minds and inculcating the values and soft skills crucial for the success of students in their chosen careers and in life. On a grander scale, it can contribute to fostering social cohesion and nation building.