Women have been excluded from higher education for a long time. We’ve made great progress in terms of making education more accessible to women worldwide in recent decades but the gender gap remains high. The STEM field is a perfect example of this gap.
In the UK, only a staggering 13% of the STEM workforce is female. There is work to be done, but where to start?
FIRST OF ALL, WHAT IS STEM?
STEM stands for Science, Technology, Engineering and Mathematics. STEM is not just an acronym for these subjects, but it is also a method of education in which all these subjects are interdependent from one another and they need to be taught with a hands-on learning approach.
STEM learning encourages children to experiment, make mistakes or fail, and then to find a solution or a desired outcome through creativity and problem solving. This process sparks curiosity and makes learning a much deeper and more meaningful experience.
When we talk about majors in the STEM field we include anything like physics, computer science, engineering, mathematics and so on. STEM subjects are very important in today’s world and will be even more important in tomorrow’s world.
HOW EARLY SHOULD WE START TEACHING STEM TO CHILDREN?
The answer here is really simple: as early as possible. STEM learning can start as early as 2 years old.
Research shows that active learning and investigation in early childhood education helps build essential skills that will stay with children throughout their school years. Toddlers’ brain acts and absorbs information like a sponge and it’s perfectly adapted to learn STEM concepts from a very young age.
Moreover, starting to teach STEM early on is especially important for girls.
Research conducted by the National Assessment of Educational Progress (NAEP) shows that the gap between girls and boys in science and math begins widening between the ages of 9 and 10 years old.
Other tests suggest that by the age of 12 girls begin to like less subjects like math and science. Girls at that age reported lower levels of confidence in their math abilities and experienced more anxiety than boys when performing math-related tasks.
Starting to engage children in STEM while they are young could help narrow this gap and boost their confidence when approaching the subjects in their higher education.
Exposing young children to the practicality of subjects like math or engineering shows them how these fields can be interesting and within their reach.