What is STEM?

By Steven Galvin - Last update

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Today, the Minister for Further and Higher Education, Research, Innovation and Science, Simon Harris, TD, announced a national investment of €5.2 million through the Science Foundation Ireland Discover Programme. The funding will support 49 public engagement and education initiatives that aim to improve public understanding of science, technology, engineering, and maths (STEM) and engage a wide audience of people with STEM topics. So what is STEM and why is it so important?

STEM is an acronym that refers to an approach to learning and development that integrates science, technology, engineering and mathematics.

STEM has become a buzzword in education as it combines concepts and ideas into a single, cross-disciplinary program which applies to the real-world outside the classroom.

At an education level STEM seeks to move beyond the individual subjects and encourages students to learn new ways to think and develop creative skills to find solutions to problems, fostering such skills as creativity, critical analysis, teamwork, independent thinking, initiative, communication and digital literacy.

In this way students are empowered with the skills they need to become aware of, adapt to and succeed in a technologically evolving world in which there is a growing and wide range of careers in science, technology, engineering and maths (STEM).

Educators agree that the need to foster expertise in STEM disciplines is essential to guarantee Ireland’s future economic ambitions. STEM will play a huge role in providing solutions to challenges and shaping choices we need to make in the future.

Ireland must do all it can to improve the quality and quantity of STEM graduates to work in a variety of industries that are at the core of Ireland’s strength as an economic force going forward.

According to stem-education.ie/, providing STEM Education of the highest quality is essential if Ireland is to deliver on its ambitions to be a hub of technological creativity and an innovation leader.

Innovation 2020’, Ireland’s strategy for Research and Development, Science and Technology, highlighted the critical importance of excellence in STEM Education to ensure the continuous development of a pipeline of talent and stated that “expertise in STEM subjects is necessary to drive our economic ambitions, support innovation and provide the foundations for future prosperity.”

In order to achieve that excellence a government report on Science, Technology, Engineering and Mathematics (STEM) Education concluded with the following recommendations:

  • Preparation of teachers (at primary and post-primary level) for STEM education in Ireland
  • The best methods of supporting the current cohort of STEM Teachers within the system (with a particular focus on Continuing Professional Development)
  • The introduction of new teaching and learning modalities that would enhance STEM education in our schools
  • The use of technology to enhance STEM learning
  • The promotion of STEM careers and the identification of methods to enhance the engagement of students in STEM subjects

The technological age is advancing at a massive pace and so must the STEM education landscape in order to successfully navigate this rapidly growing space. www.sphero.com estimate that STEM careers have increased by 79% since the 1990s and are projected to continue to grow by at least 13% into 2027. And so it is essential that we are ready for the future and meet the challenges to supply the demand for opportunities requiring high-level STEM skills that can drive the country forward.


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Steven Galvin

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