Here’s how STEM can gather STEAM

Our next gen­er­a­tion will be bet­ter-equipped to han­dle the multi-pronged chal­lenges thrown their way in the days ahead

Gulf News - - The Views -

Our ed­u­ca­tion sys­tem takes its cue from the var­i­ous avatars of the In­dus­trial Rev­o­lu­tion that started off with a fo­cus on steam and wa­ter, and grad­u­ally moved to elec­tric­ity and mass pro­duc­tion in the sec­ond phase. The fo­cus then shifted to elec­tron­ics, IT sys­tems and au­to­ma­tion dur­ing the third stage of the In­dus­trial Rev­o­lu­tion. Look­ing at the ad­vent of this rev­o­lu­tion, our pol­i­cy­mak­ers for­mu­lated a man­date for the ed­u­ca­tion sys­tem — one with a fo­cus largely on sci­ence, tech­nol­ogy, en­gi­neer­ing and math­e­mat­ics (STEM). This was done to link our ed­u­ca­tion goals with the needs of the work­force.

Now, we are at the thresh­old of the fourth In­dus­trial Rev­o­lu­tion and the ques­tion of readi­ness is a deeply dis­turb­ing one. A blend of big data, ro­bot­ics and au­to­ma­tion, Ar­ti­fi­cial In­tel­li­gence, ad­vanced an­a­lyt­ics, In­ter­net of Things (IoT) and process digi­ti­sa­tion across the busi­ness value chain are the salient fea­tures of this rev­o­lu­tion that re­quire, among other things, a shift in mind­set par­a­digms. A lack of the re­quired skill-sets has led to the fear of los­ing jobs due to a pre­pon­der­ance of ro­bots and au­to­ma­tion.

The ed­u­ca­tion land­scape is faced with an even greater chal­lenge. It is not enough that our ed­u­ca­tors en­sure ‘what’ to­day’s stu­dents are learn­ing in schools and col­leges. Our fo­cus should be on ‘how’ they learn it. This is im­por­tant be­cause these skills will pre­pare them for a fu­ture that is un­cer­tain. This was the ra­tio­nale for the in­tro­duc­tion of STEAM (sci­ence, tech­nol­ogy, en­gi­neer­ing, arts and math­e­mat­ics) ap­proach to learn­ing. Arts was a dis­ci­pline that was mostly un­der­val­ued in ed­u­ca­tion with doc­tors and en­gi­neers be­ing the pre­ferred ca­reer choices and in fact still pri­mar­ily the dream ca­reer of most par­ents in the In­dian sub­con­ti­nent. STEAM ap­proach brings arts out of its se­cluded cor­ners. The stigma of arts not be­ing in­tel­lec­tu­ally chal­leng­ing is fad­ing and it is be­ing recog­nised as a vi­tal com­po­nent to de­sign think­ing and seek cre­ative and in­no­va­tive so­lu­tions to re­solve global is­sues.

Mul­ti­ple op­tions

In­te­gra­tion of STEAM in class­rooms has mul­ti­ple ben­e­fits: It leads to in­no­va­tion and helps de­velop cross­cur­ric­u­lar strate­gies of teach­ing such as util­is­ing dig­i­tal tools, giv­ing stu­dents mul­ti­ple op­tions for pre­sent­ing what they learn, en­cour­ag­ing stu­dents to be cu­ri­ous and ex­per­i­ment, fo­cus­ing on in­quiry-based learn­ing. It also helps stu­dents to ac­quire the rel­e­vant skill-sets that are highly sought-after in the 21st-cen­tury job mar­ket.

It is true that STEAM learn­ing may not be the per­fect an­swer to the dilem­mas of 21st cen­tury ed­u­ca­tion, but it en­com­passes a plethora of pos­i­tives such as cre­ativ­ity, think­ing out of the box, hands-on learn­ing, con­fi­dence, col­lab­o­ra­tion and above all it de­vel­ops in­no­va­tive mind­sets with the abil­ity to crit­i­cally an­a­lyse and prob­lem­solve that can help cre­ate think­ing fu­ture cit­i­zens. Only time will tell whether such a gen­er­a­tion will be bet­ter equipped to han­dle the multi-pronged chal­lenges that come their way in the fu­ture.

■ Dr Fa­rooq Ah­mad Wasil is a noted ed­u­ca­tion­ist. He is the global head of Af­ford­able Schools, GEMS Ed­u­ca­tion.

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