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
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.
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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