A BRIEF HISTORY OF STEM EDUCATION

ThinkerPlace
4 min readApr 26, 2021

“Education is simply the soul of a society as it passes from one generation to another”.

By way of this astutely phrased quote, famed writer GK Chesterton captured the impact of the vital role played by education. It is an ambiguous yet alluring concept which is flexible in its approach, progressive in its methodologies, and highly beneficial in its outcome. Without it, the world as we know it today would not have existed and humanity would have been forced to survive in the desolate conditions of the Stone Age era.

EVOLUTION OF EDUCATION

Education has been prevalent in our society right since the time of our early ancestors. Despite it not having been given a proper name, in essence, education has always been a part of our lives.

During the early stages of humanity, wars were plaguing the world. Under such dire circumstances, the knowledge and skills of one person needed to be propagated and taught to others. Unknowingly, these acts of survival training laid the foundation for education. Once peace and calm had been restored and the progression of the human race began, education took on a different form. Pupils were taught whatever skills were deemed necessary by their teachers. Their learning process also included concepts of religion and theism since these were popular ideas back then.

From this stage, education evolved further and eventually took the form that we associate with it today. Sophisticated educational institutions such as schools and colleges developed, and the concepts that were previously taught abstractly were bifurcated into distinct subjects.

CONCEPTUALIZATION OF THE STEM MODEL

From among the plethora of subject choices available, there are a few which play an indispensable role in strengthening our knowledge base. A noteworthy example of such a subject is the discipline of science which is omnipresent and has applications in almost every other field of life. Right from healthcare to agriculture, or from robotics to aeronautics, science is pervasive and is present in all these disciplines.

Through the curriculum of schools and colleges, the wise minds who are working towards enhancing the process of education identified and isolated a few other such subjects which would bear a greater significance on the prospects of students. It was then proposed to develop a comprehensive learning model that would encompass all these subjects and provide students with a deeper and more profound understanding of them.

The term STEM Education was first coined in the year 2001by the scientific administrators of the US National Science Foundation. The word is an acronym for its four component subjects which are Science, Education, Technology, Mathematics. The model was thus conceptualized as an integrated and holistic learning experience for students in these disciplines.

DEVELOPMENT OF STEM EDUCATION

The genesis of the STEM Education model kick-started the journey towards the progress of education. The development of the new model triggered a cascading effect in which a range of procedural, administrative, and infrastructural changes were proposed to cater to the rigours and demands of STEM Education. As the birthplace of the new model, a lot of these initial changes were limited to and witnessed only in the United States. The idea then gradually spread to other parts of the world.

Soon after the conceptualization of the model, its potential was recognized and people were enthralled by its novel ideas. The administration also offered support to propagate this unique idea. The first major step was taken in Arizona where private and federal funding was gathered to create a STEM Agenda. Seeing this, other states also were inspired to take active measures to support the emerging model and thus established STEM Councils. By the year 2009, the importance of STEM Education intensified due to the technological wave that descended over the global community. Hence, the US increased multifold the federal funding and investment that was set aside for the new model. In 2014, it was sought to give legislative backing to the idea of the STEM model which led to the establishment of the STEM Education Act.

STEM EDUCATION IN INDIA

India has always been a country with high regard for education. It is home to some of the greatest scholars of all time. Our ancestors have left us with a remarkable legacy of sheer brilliance in matters of science and mathematics.

The educational structure in India was previously based on a very theoretical outlook. STEM subjects were taught, however, students got no practical experience in the fields. Following the popularity and support that the new model received in other countries, India also sought to adopt the STEM Education culture. Schools and colleges are now transforming their teaching methods to include practical training, and encourage students to creatively tackle problems. Technology has been accepted as a highly effective medium to teach students, and infrastructural changes such as laboratories, high-end equipment, etc. have also been sanctioned.

The administration also is doing its part towards generating the problem-solving capabilities in students that are a desired outcome of the STEM Model. Campaigns such as ‘Make in India’ Innovation Mission, or ‘Skill India’ have been implemented to excite students about the idea of innovation and to generate in them an analytical mindset.

Thus, over the last two decades, STEM Education has transformed itself from a vague notion into a powerhouse of learning.

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