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Improving the International Focus on STEM

I've been doing a lot of research lately for different projects I have at my school. Every time I research something for my unit plans or projects, I keep stumbling into the same term over and over again. STEM. I am familiar with the term STEM and its growing popularity in the U.S. but then again, I am a Computer Science teacher and it is my job to be as familiar as possible with any term related to it. I am quite sure however, that there are many more teachers who would be interested in STEM if they understood its critical importance for their students.

So I started doing a little bit more research on STEM-related careers and jobs and found out that the possibilities are huge. STEM could open so many doors for our high school students. Every article and website related to STEM ended up with the same conclusion: STEM is where the future lies because it is where the jobs are!

A few days later, while still experiencing STEM bliss, I was casually chatting to a high school junior about his plans for the future. He is a great athlete and of course is aiming towards a sports scholarship in his college of choice, but when I asked him if he had decided on a major, he said he still wasn't sure. This, of course, is no surprise considering that he still has one more high school year to go. I took the opportunity to inquire as to whether he would be interested in pursuing a STEM-related career. Needless to say, his response was sadly telling. His face was as blank as if I had asked him about the weather on Pluto. I was so disappointed to know that he had no idea what I was talking about. My biggest concern is that most of the students at my school are in the same position.

Sad and concerned I went back to my desk and fired up Google and Bing to find out if this array of opportunities is only open for kids in the U.S. I found out that there are several countries that are not only orienting their high school students towards a STEM-related education, they are surpassing the U.S. (North Korea and Australia among others). Of course, those are all world leaders in education and technology so this is not surprising. But what about the rest of the world?

What about countries like mine that have adopted U.S. curricula with our students with the hope they will have improved opportunities for higher education in a U.S. college? Where do we stand on this? Our students are working hard to be able to get into a college that will help them succeed anywhere, but are oriented to old fashion careers and jobs. And even if they find out about the rest of opportunities available to them, they don't have the base to perform as well as their peers in these areas. It's worth also mentioning that we are an ESL (English as a second language) school.

So I think that a campaign is in order and a change of mind to define where education is being oriented in countries such as mine (Honduras) where we have to open our students' eyes and engage them into new paths and careers. It has to start with the educators and policy makers and permeate to the student s and their families. It is imperative that they know what is out there and how to compete in the race and that they have a chance to succeed in this ever-changing world.

Michelle Lagos
CSTA International Representative

Comments

Michelle, we are hearing similar things from teachers all over the world.

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