What is S.T.E.M? It’s an acronym for Science, Technology, Engineering & Maths and is an initiative launched by the US government to revitalize interest in these fields among children. As a category it includes toys, games, educational products and experimental kits all aimed at making these fields engaging and entertaining for children as they learn; and so find a love for something that could turn into a career one day.

S.T.E.M. is based on the idea of educating students in four specific disciplines, in an interdisciplinary and applied approach. Rather than teach the four disciplines as separate and discrete subjects, S.T.E.M. integrates them into a cohesive learning paradigm based on real-world applications.

What separates S.T.E.M. from the traditional science and math education is the blended learning environment and showing students how the scientific method can be applied to everyday life. It teaches students computational thinking and focuses on the real-world applications of problem solving. S.T.E.M. education begins while students are very young:

Primary school level — S.T.E.M. education focuses on the introductory level S.T.E.M. courses, as well as awareness of the STEM fields and occupations. This initial step provides standards-based structured inquiry-based and real-world problem-based learning, connecting all four of the S.T.E.M. subjects. The goal is to pique students’ interest into them wanting to pursue the courses, not because they have to.

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High school level — At this stage, the courses become more rigorous and challenging. Student awareness of S.T.E.M. fields and occupations is still pursued, as well as the academic requirements of such fields. Student exploration of S.T.E.M. related careers begins at this level, particularly for underrepresented populations. Courses and pathways are now available in S.T.E.M. fields and occupations, as well as preparation for post school education and employment. More emphasis is placed on bridging in-school and out-of-school S.T.E.M. opportunities.

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South African National Space Agency (SANSA) are always on the lookout for a workforce of problem-solvers, innovators, and inventors who are self-reliant and able to think logically is one of the critical foundations that drive their operations. They are pleased to see key stakeholders in education field encourage young South Africans to take up S.T.E.M. subjects in high school and universities.

This is in line with SANSA’s aim of promoting the uptake and appreciation of science by the youth, and improves the overall scientific literacy and engagement the country’s populace. S.T.E.M. education is vital to ensuring the long-term viability and well-being of South African technological and scientific advancement, as well as for providing a new generation of well-qualified engineers, technicians and scientists who can improve upon the achievements of the current generation of space engineers and scientists.

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