A strange conundrum stares a modern parent in the face. Parents in hunter-gatherer society taught the next generation to hunt and gather, agricultural society to farm or trade, and industrial society to manufacture and administer. The future, for most part of humanity’s evolution, was ‘anticipate-able’. Not anymore.
The ever-evolving technological scenario challenges a basic premise on which we humans have secured our children’s future. For ages, we have been training children to be employable when they grow up. Suddenly, the rules of the game have changed. Training for a particular vocation might end up being futile if that trade itself has become obsolete.
As any parent would agree, their only worry is the success of their child in real life when the child grows up. At the very core, parent consider their primary responsibility to empower their child to succeed in ‘the future’. But how is a parent supposed to fulfil their role when this ‘future’ itself is changing at an unimaginable pace?
A parent of an 11-year-old today, has, in their own lifetime, gone from no phones to instant messaging, no tv to on-demand videos, and inaccessible information to ubiquitous one-click search engines. In such a dynamic scenario, the only real tool a parent can provide their child is ‘power to adapt’. This implies preparing children to not just keep pace with change as parents themselves did, but to empower them to lead the change.
The most effective way to prepare gen-next might be to go back to the basics. Application, ingenuity and innovation are the skills that brought about the technological revolution. These very same tools can be weapons for today’s children to shape the future. And it is in this aspect that STEM learning becomes critical. STEM is an acronym for Science, Technology, Engineering and Mathematics - the four pillars which support our post-industrial era.
Every change that has affected our life in the past decade or so has its root in one or more of these fields - be it in our immediate sphere or society at large. And every change to come will also emerge from these fields. A thorough grasp of STEM fundamentals and a mindset oriented towards applying these fundamentals in practical life will be critical values for individuals in the future, irrespective of whether they are artists or technologists, managers or operators. The STEM fields, by their very nature, imbibe valuable qualities like scientific temperament, self-discipline, strong work ethic, sense of responsibility, problem solving attitude, curiosity and tenacity to push the boundaries. It is these qualities that lead to application, ingenuity and innovation. While there is a lot of emphasis on STEM education because of the ‘employability’ value delivered by studying these subjects, there is much stronger case for understanding STEM fundamentals because of their inherent ability to shape a better society, by augmenting the value system prescribed by humanities subjects. Deep understanding and application of STEM fundamentals has the power to impact all of us, whether you’re raising a future Einstein or a more creative-based right-brain child. The key benefits of this learning are:
Success in real life
Every report on ‘careers of the future’ lists STEM related professions as the most lucrative work options that individuals will have in the future. Pragmatic as it may sound, this is the most obvious reason to empower your child with STEM fundamentals.
Contributor, Not Consumer
Strong STEM understanding prepares your child to innovate and create something to become a contributing member of the future society than becoming just another consumer of others’ innovations.
Problem Solving Attitude
STEM learning trains children to analyse a problem and find a solution. STEM focused projects imbibe children with the ability to think in parts, as well as a whole to solve a problem scientifically and rationally.
STEM learning provides children with a mental framework that enhances multiple intelligences and builds a wholesome personality.
Children learn the most through play, and retain learning longer when they are immersed in a learning experience mind and body. Instead of rote-learning focused on scoring higher grades, getting into better colleges and securing a better salaried job, we believe that children should be empowered with an intrinsic understanding of STEM fundamentals as they play. Instead of unboxing a toy, playing with it and then dumping it, we believe in ownership that comes with making something with your hands. Our do-it-yourself approach empowers children with a belief that they can ‘make’ things. The ability to make things is a powerful skill, and even making a simple toy instills a deep self-confidence in children.
(The author is Co-Founder, Smartivity. Views expressed are personal)