What is STEM?

Simplistically the acronym STEM refers to four disciplines of our education system Science, Technology, Engineering and Mathematics but in reality the definition is not so straightforward.

It is a word of significant importance not just in our education system but used now by policy makers in government, research industry, business and the workforce.  What is evident is that understandings of this term vary depending on what how you identify with it.  For example, to improve a nation’s productivity governments might put more funding into ‘STEM’ degrees whereas an educational institution might want to improve maths results therefor focus on STEM outcomes within the school. (Siekmann, 2016 pg. 2).

As an educator, my understanding of ‘STEM education’ closely aligns with Siekmann which is, it establishes relationships between the four disciplines with a strong emphasis not only on the foundational knowledge of the four disciplines but on critical and creative thinking skills. STEM education doesn’t merely impart content knowledge in these disciplines but seeks to provide frameworks in which new problems can be tackled. (The Office of the Chief Scientist, Australia’s Future pp. 39)