STEM careers today require training, collaboration, and resources to resolve challenges or create innovation. Countries worldwide are seeing the critical importance of offering opportunities that can prepare students for STEM professions as it is not only essential for today's job market, but will be even more important in the future.
How are countries worldwide integrating STEM education to prepare future professionals for careers in STEM? Here is a closer look at specific initiatives that are taking place in different countries.
Thailand's Ministry of Education has partnered with UNESCO to encourage and improve STEM education in their country. The educational opportunities are highlighted particularly for girls and women. Thailand is also planning to pilot a STEM and Advancement Program to gather data with the goal of improving the STEM gender gap. The hope is that this program will offer meaningful progress for each girl and boy to teach their educational and professional goals.
At a Mayan girl's school in Panajachel, Guatemala, Jere Confrey (Distinguished University Professor of Mathematics Education) works with educators to improve STEM curriculum for young students. His goal is to provide education and student-centered classrooms for young women throughout many marginalized and heavily disadvantaged communities within Guatemala.
Asma Ismail, the Director General for Higher Education in Malaysia, sees the need for her country to move forward by being "less dependent on an agriculture-based economy." She believes Malaysians must develop and train for new skills if they hope to be successful and compete in a knowledge-based world economy. At a NYAS press conference, Asma commented, "For the country to survive, we need to invest in STEM education."
Armenia is encouraging women to choose STEM careers because of the increasing demand for skilled workers. It is also necessary to improve women's earnings and help narrow gender wage gaps. However, there are strong barriers for women culturally due to stereotypes that women should maintain home responsibilities, and not work in the labor force. As the educational system in Armenia turns to a STEM focus for all, there is hope that the country will produce more STEM students, male and female, to help improve the competitiveness with other worldwide communities.
China continues to gain speed when competing with other countries for STEM graduates. With 4.7 million STEM graduates in 2016, it far surpasses other countries. Due to the increasing number of graduates, China was building nearly one university a week in 2016. India was close behind with 2.6 million STEM graduates, while the United States and Russia were ranked third and fourth for STEM graduates at a distant 568,000 and 561,000.
Fortunately, with the broad accessibility of the internet, even the most remote countries have access to STEM resources for their students. One example is the International Technology and Engineering Educators Association (ITEEA), which claims to be the largest professional education association for STEM. It provides support to teachers and students with a continually updated list of online STEM curriculum and resources. The membership of this organization reaches more than 45 countries. In addition to hosting an annual conference and publishing professional journals, ITEEA has additional resources for technology and engineering teachers.
A growing world of STEM education
With the world economy focused on technology, it is not surprising that STEM graduates are in demand. Many countries worldwide recognize that STEM education will help teach future scientists, engineers, thinkers, and builders who will have a critical role in the development of the global economy. Establishing initiatives and programs to further STEM curriculum will better prepare students worldwide for the future workforce.