STEAM Education for a better future
Behind STEAM (Science, Technology, Engineering, Arts and Mathematics) there is a paradigm shift that aims to promote science and technology education. It is not a term that has emerged out of nothing, it has arisen out of a trend in the educational world: the STEM concept. It is based on constructivism, on the philosophy of working on projects and on interdisciplinarity.
When we speak of professional worlds, we speak of STEM professions, whereas when we speak of education in sectoral disciplines, we speak of STEAM education. So, the intention is to point out that STEM can be used to address issues that are important to society (e.g. sociological, political or economic challenges) and that within this letter ‘A’ is the development of competencies that are not directly related to a particular discipline, such as teamwork, having a critical approach to information, etc.
So, in the 21st century, STEAM is much more than a recipe for creating technicians and engineers: it serves to confront reality with curiosity, and promotes eagerness to investigate. STEM professions extend into more areas than one might think. And in everyday life we also need the STEAM approach to make decisions and banish false beliefs and fake news, which are so dangerous.
Faced with the great challenges confronting today’s society, we need STEM professionals to build a more sustainable world, to act with a critical eye, to respond to the great challenges confronting society, to revive local economies, industries, and education systems… and to be our own voice in the research world.
We all need STEM based on values: empathy, ecology, committed to social justice, and guaranteeing real equality between women and men, which is built from the perspective of women and men.
Let us promote STEAM as a space for education, cultural heritage, job opportunities, transformation and social participation.
STEAM and STEM Professionals
STEM comes from the terms Science, Technology, Engineering and Mathematics. In order to encourage the incorporation of young people into this field within education, certain methodologies have frequently been highlighted: creativity and fun in STEM processes and activities, originality in the generation of knowledge, transversality and interdisciplinarity, etc. All this is called STEAM ( ‘A’ corresponds to Arts).
The absence of women has been detected in some areas of the STEM professions, especially in engineering (although they are in the majority in medicine and life sciences). The lack of women is most obvious in higher positions, which are the most important and best paid. Many factors influence decision-making about the future of young people, and enriching, continuing stimulation is necessary to awaken interest in the science and technology fields. Through this initiative, we encourage institutions, STEM volunteer professionals, educators, technology and research centres and companies to move closer towards this interesting scientific and technological world. We believe that this would be good for society, for the STEM environment and for the people who adopt this approach to encourage greater diversity and inclusion.
A negative image of STEM professionals is widespread in society: a half-crazy scientist (a white male) focused on his abstract ideas and absent-minded in his personal life, a genius who comes up with formulae that nobody understands and who works alone. The technological-scientific world is broader and more diverse, and today working without a team is no longer viable. In any case, this image has a negative impact on some young people, because although they want to address the future through STEM, some find it difficult to see themselves reflected in that image. We know that this world is much more extensive, not only involving Einstein or IT nerds, or wearing a lab coat and looking at bubbles in a pipette through a microscope in a laboratory. Scientists must also read, research, translate, accompany, guide, educate, draw, document, test, manage, offer services, transport… and take into account the image of the science and engineering disciplines that we all want to redefine and project.
The equal participation of women in these fields is not merely an issue of justice; other points of view essential for scientific progress: gender, race, disability, age, etc., need to be taken into account. We want to encourage companies, young people and society in general to close the gender gap, to break the glass ceiling, to work for a dignified life and to develop a scientific culture that allows for lifelong personal development. Without underestimating other branches of knowledge and culture, we believe that science is something worthwhile, because it can enable young people to contribute towards improving the world and provide them with a sense of fulfilment.