US STEM Policy
The vision of the U.S. Federal STEM Education 5-year strategic plan is to ensure a future where all Americans have lifetime access to high-quality STEM education and the United States is the global leader in STEM literacy, innovation, and employment. Additionally, the strategic plan defined three aspirational goals for achieving the vision of the strategic plan, i.e., "building a strong foundation for STEM literacy, increasing diversity, equity, and inclusion in STEM, and preparing the STEM workforce for the future." A detailed review of the research findings follows below.
GOALS AND APPROACHES OF STEM ADMINISTRATION FOR STEM EDUCATION IN THE UNITED STATES
- The overarching vision for the STEM administration is "a future where all Americans have lifelong access to high-quality STEM education and the United States is the global leader in STEM literacy, innovation, and employment."
- This plan was released in December 2018, by the Committee on STEM Education (CoSTEM) as the U.S. Federal STEM Education 5-year strategic.
- The urgency felt in this statement targeted various communities, families, learners, their educators, and even employers. It was a nationwide call to action that was intended to inspire national collaboration.
- Their vision became the STEM community’s “North Star” on the journey toward the success of the United States, and in areas of education, literacy, innovation, and employment.
- STEM education focused on ensuring that the United States stay at the forefront of technological innovation and discovery, as it also addresses the needs of the American people.
- The three goals of CoSTEM within the STEM education strategic plan are outlined below.
- The 5-year strategic plan defined three aspirational goals, i.e., "building a strong foundation for STEM literacy, increasing diversity, equity, and inclusion in STEM, and preparing the STEM workforce for the future." These goals were defined as a roadmap towards achieving the vision as put forth by the Committee on STEM Education, and are outlined below:
1. TO BUILD A STRONG FOUNDATION FOR STEM LITERACY
- STEM education provides Americans with the opportunity to master basic STEM concepts such as computational thinking and become digitally literate. The following objectives are essential to achieving this goal. They include:
- Blending successful practices from across the learning landscape to encourage transdisciplinary learning, making computational thinking an integral element of all education, and promoting digital literacy and cyber safety to influence the expansion of digital platforms for teaching and learning.
- A STEM-literate public would be better placed to handle the expected rapid technological change and be better prepared to participate in civil society.
- So, by building a robust foundation for STEM literacy, elected officials, community non-profits, and professional organizations are best-positioned to intensify the urgency of this goal among the American people.
2. TO INCREASE DIVERSITY, EQUITY, AND INCLUSION IN STEM
- This goal is crucial to the success of the strategic plan because "the full benefits of the Nation’s STEM enterprise will not be realized until this goal is achieved." This goal has the following objectives:
- Fostering STEM ecosystems that unite communities and STEM organizations monitoring and reporting the rates of under-represented groups.
- All stakeholders that take part in STEM education can identify ways that will increase diversity, equity, and inclusion in STEM and facilitate the employment of underserved and underrepresented minorities in STEM fields and employment.
3. TO PREPARE THE STEM WORKFORCE FOR THE FUTURE
- To achieve this goal, "an authentic learning experience that encourages and prepares learners to pursue STEM careers" should be created, as this would result in a diverse talent pool of STEM-literate American citizens that are prepared for the future.
- Other objectives include increasing work-based learning and training through educator-employer partnerships and advancing innovation and entrepreneurship education.
- For the achievement of the goals highlighted above, the strategic plan further defined four pathways, each of which had specific objectives. By achieving the set objectives of each of the four pathways, the success of the three goals would be met, resulting in the realization of the vision statement.
- The four pathways represent "a cross-cutting set of approaches, each with a specific set of objectives and priority Federal actions for achieving the goals."
- Federal action for the four pathways is in the form of national organizations such as the Department of Commerce, Department of Defense, Department of Energy, Department of Homeland Security, among others.
- The departments had different plans to contribute to the four pathways and their objectives through mission-specific actions that were subject to budgetary constraints and other approvals. The four pathways are stated thus:
1. DEVELOP AND ENRICH STRATEGIC PARTNERSHIPS
- This pathway focuses on "strengthening existing relationships and developing new connections between educational institutions, employers, and their communities."
- It means bringing together key stakeholders in STEM education, i.e., "schools, colleges and universities, libraries, museums, and other community resources to build STEM ecosystems that broaden and enrich each learner’s educational and career journey."
- It also involves engaging learners in work-based learning experiences with local employers, internships, apprenticeships, and research experiences.
- Through strategic partnerships, opportunities within the education community such as the blending of formal and informal learning such as curricula "to enable students to complete both core academic and applied technical curricula in preparation for higher education."
2. ENGAGE STUDENTS WHERE DISCIPLINES CONVERGE
- This pathway "seeks to make STEM learning more meaningful and inspiring to students by focusing on complex real-world problems and challenges that require initiative and creativity."
- It would promote innovation and entrepreneurship by engaging learners in transdisciplinary activities like "project-based learning, science fairs, robotics clubs, invention challenges, or gaming workshops that require participants to identify and solve problems using knowledge and methods from across disciplines."
- This pathway also seeks to help the students that are challenged in mathematics, which is frequently a barrier to STEM careers by employing the use of innovative methods.
3. BUILD COMPUTATIONAL LITERACY
- This pathway recognizes "how thoroughly digital devices and the internet have transformed society and adopts strategies that empower learners to take maximum advantage of this change."
- The objectives of this pathway recognize the importance of digital literacy in empowering people with platforms for finding information, answering questions, and sharing ideas. However, people also need to understand how to responsibly and safely use digital platforms through digital literacy.
- Additionally, this pathway also seeks to advance computational thinking as a critical skill for today’s world.
- Lastly, the pathway also seeks to use digital platforms for teaching and learning because "they enable anywhere/anytime learning; make possible individualized instruction customized to the way each person learns most effectively; and can offer more active and engaging learning through simulation-based activities or virtual reality experiences."
4. OPERATE WITH TRANSPARENCY AND ACCOUNTABILITY
- This pathway commits "the Federal Government to open, evidence-based practices and decision-making in STEM programs, investments, and activities."
- Through complementary practices by other STEM stakeholders, the entire STEM ecosystem will collectively monitor progress towards achieving the shared national goals of the 5-year STEM education strategic plan.
CONCLUSION ON PATHWAYS
- The four pathways are vital to realizing the goals and vision of the STEM education strategic plan because they have the potential to catalyze and empower educators, employers, and communities. It would benefit all "learners at all levels and to society as a whole and to ensure the realization of a shared vision for American leadership in STEM literacy, innovation, and employment."