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STEM is an acronym referring to the academic disciplines of science, technology, engineering, and mathematics. The term is typically used when addressing education policy and curriculum choices in schools to improve competitiveness in technology development. It has implications for workforce development, national security concerns and immigration policy.
MINT (mathematics, information sciences, natural sciences, and technology) is a much less common term with a similar meaning.
In the United States, the acronym began to be used in education and immigration debates in initiatives to begin to address the perceived lack of qualified candidates for high-tech jobs. It also addresses concern that the subjects are often taught in isolation, instead of as an integrated curriculum. Maintaining a citizenry that is well versed in the STEM fields is a key portion of the public education agenda of the United States. The acronym has been widely used in the immigration debate regarding access to United States work visas for immigrants who are skilled in these fields. It has also become commonplace in education discussions as a reference to the shortage of skilled workers and inadequate education in these areas.
Many organizations in the United States follow the guidelines of the National Science Foundation on what constitutes a STEM field. The NSF uses a broader definition of STEM subjects which includes subjects in the fields of chemistry, computer and information technology science, engineering, geosciences, life sciences, mathematical sciences, physics and astronomy, social sciences (anthropology, economics, psychology and sociology), and STEM education and learning research. Eligibility for scholarship programs such as the CSM STEM Scholars Program use the NSF definition.
It is the only American federal agency whose mission includes support for all fields of fundamental science and engineering, except for medical sciences. Its disciplinary program areas include scholarships, grants, fellowships in fields like biological sciences, computer and information science and engineering, education and human resources, engineering, environmental research and education, geosciences, international science and engineering, mathematical and physical sciences, social, behavioral and economic sciences, cyberinfrastructure and polar programs. A list of NSF's STEM degree fields can be found on the NSF site.
Although many organizations in the United States follow the guidelines of the National Science Foundation on what constitutes a STEM field, the United States Department of Homeland Security (DHS) has its own functional definition used for immigration policy. In 2012, DHS or ICE announced an expanded list of science, technology, engineering, and mathematics (STEM) designated-degree programs that qualify eligible graduates on student visas for an optional practical training (OPT) extension. Under the OPT program, international students who graduate from colleges and universities in the United States are able to remain in the country and receive training through work experience for up to 12 months. Students who graduate from a designated STEM degree program can remain for an additional 17 months on an OPT STEM extension. The expanded list released by DHS in 2012 full list can be found at http://www.ice.gov/doclib/sevis/pdf/stem-list.pdf.
An exhaustive list of STEM disciplines does not exist because the definition varies by organization. The U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement lists disciplines including: physics, actuarial science, chemistry, biology, mathematics, applied mathematics, statistics, computer science, computational science, psychology, biochemistry, robotics, computer engineering, electrical engineering, electronics, mechanical engineering, industrial engineering, information science, civil engineering, aerospace engineering, chemical engineering, astrophysics, astronomy, optics, nanotechnology, nuclear physics, mathematical biology, operations research, neurobiology, biomechanics, bioinformatics, acoustical engineering, geographic information systems, atmospheric sciences, educational/instructional technology, software engineering, and educational research.
STEM generally supports broadening the study of engineering within each of the other subjects, and beginning engineering at younger grades, even elementary school. It also brings STEM education to all students rather than only the gifted programs. In his 2012 Budget, President Obama renamed and broadened the "Mathematics and Science Partnership (MSP)" to award block grants to states for improving teacher education in those subjects.
In 2006, the United States National Academies expressed their concern about the declining state of STEM education in the United States. Its Committee on Science, Engineering and Public Policy developed a list of 10 actions federal policy makers could take to advance STEM education in the United States to compete successfully in the 21st century. Their top three recommendations were to:
The National Aeronautics and Space Administration also has implemented programs and curricula to advance STEM education in order to replenish the pool of scientists, engineers and mathematicians who will lead space exploration in the 21st century.
Individual states, like California, have run pilot, after school STEM programs, for example, to learn what the most promising practices are and how to implement them to increase the chance of student success.
In the State of the Union Address on January 31, 2006, United States President George W. Bush announced the American Competitiveness Initiative. Bush proposed the initiative to address shortfalls in federal government support of educational development and progress at all academic levels in the STEM fields. In detail, the initiative called for significant increases in federal funding for advanced R&D programs (including a doubling of federal funding support for advanced research in the physical sciences through DOE) and an increase in U.S. higher education graduates within STEM disciplines.
The NASA Means Business competition, sponsored by the Texas Space Grant Consortium, furthers that goal. College students compete to develop promotional plans to encourage students in middle and high school to study STEM subjects and to inspire professors in STEM fields to involve their students in outreach activities that support STEM education.
The National Science Foundation has numerous programs in STEM education, including some for K–12 students such as the ITEST Program that supports The Global Challenge Award ITEST Program. STEM programs have been implemented in some Arizona schools. They implement higher cognitive skills for students and enable them to inquire and use techniques used by professionals in the science, technology, engineering and mathematical fields.
The STEM Academy is a national non-profit status organization dedicated to improving STEM literacy for all students. It represents a recognized national next-generation high impact academic model. The practices, strategies, and programming are built upon a foundation of identified national best practices which are designed to improve under-represented minority and low-income student growth, close achievement gaps, decrease dropout rates, increase high school graduation rates and improve teacher and principal effectiveness. The STEM Academy represents a flexible use academic model which targets all schools and is for all students.
Project Lead The Way (PLTW) is a leading provider of STEM education curricular programs to middle and high schools in the United States. The national non-profit organization has over 5,200 programs in over 4,700 schools in all 50 states. Programs include a high school engineering curriculum called Pathway To Engineering, a high school biomedical sciences program, and a middle school engineering and technology program called Gateway To Technology. PLTW provides the curriculum and the teacher professional development and ongoing support to create transformational programs in schools, districts, and communities. PLTW programs have been endorsed by President Barack Obama and U.S. Secretary of Education Arne Duncan as well as various state, national, and business leaders.
The Science, Technology, Engineering, and Mathematics (STEM) Education Coalition works to support STEM programs for teachers and students at the U. S. Department of Education, the National Science Foundation, and other agencies that offer STEM-related programs. Activity of the STEM Coalition seems to have slowed since September 2009.
The Boy Scouts of America have announced the roll out of an awards program in the spring of 2012 to promote more interest and involvement in the STEM disciplines. The NOVA and SUPERNOVA awards are available to Boy Scouts, Cub Scouts and Venturers as they complete specific requirements appropriate to their program level in each of the four main STEM program areas (science, technology, engineering, mathematics).
The Ecybermission is a free, web-based science, mathematics and technology competition for students in grades six through nine sponsored by the U.S. Army. Each webinar is focused on a different step of the scientific method and is presented by an experienced eCYBERMISSION CyberGuide. CyberGuides are military and civilian volunteers with a strong background in STEM and STEM education, who are able to provide valuable insight into science, technology, engineering and mathematics to students and team advisors.
STARBASE is a premier educational program, sponsored by the Office of the Assistant Secretary of Defense for Reserve Affairs. Students interact with military personnel to explore careers and make connections with the "real world." The program provides students with 20–25 hours of stimulating experiences at National Guard, Navy, Marines, Air Force Reserve and Air Force bases across the nation.
SeaPerch is an innovative underwater robotics program that trains teachers to teach their students how to build an underwater remotely-operated vehicle (ROV) in an in-school or out-of-school setting. Students build the ROV from a kit composed of low-cost, easily accessible parts, following a curriculum that teaches basic engineering and science concepts with a marine engineering theme.
America COMPETES Act of 2007: The America COMPETES Act (P.L. 110-69) became law on August 9, 2007. The act responds to concerns that the United States may not be able to compete economically with other nations in the future due to insufficient investment today in science and technology research and science, technology, engineering, and mathematics (STEM) education and workforce development. The America COMPETES Act is intended to increase the nation's investment in science and engineering research and in STEM education from kindergarten to graduate school and postdoctoral education.
The act authorizes funding increases for the National Science Foundation (NSF), National Institute of Standards and Technology (NIST) laboratories, and the Department of Energy (DOE) Office of Science over FY2008–FY2010. Robert Gabrys, Director of Education at NASA's Goddard Space Flight Center, articulated success as increased student achievement, early expression of student interest in STEM subjects, and student preparedness to enter the workforce.
In January 2014, the U.S. House Research and Technology Subcommittee held a hearing to examine STEM education programs run by the private sector. In 2014, the U.S. federal government plans to spend $3 billion on STEM education programs through a variety of federal agencies.
In November 2012 the White House announcement before congressional vote on STEM Jobs Act put president in opposition to many of the Silicon Valley firms and executives who bankrolled his re-election campaign. The Department of Labor identified fourteen sectors that are "projected to add substantial numbers of new jobs to the economy or affect the growth of other industries or are being transformed by technology and innovation requiring new sets of skills for workers." The identified sectors were as follows: advanced manufacturing, Automotive, construction, financial services, geospatial technology, homeland security, information technology, Transportation, Aerospace, Biotechnology, energy, healthcare, hospitality and retail.
The Department of Commerce notes STEM fields careers are some of the best-paying and have the greatest potential for job growth in the early 21st century. The report also notes that STEM workers play a key role in the sustained growth and stability of the U.S. economy, and training in STEM fields generally results in higher wages, whether or not they work in a STEM field.
While Canada outperforms the United States in terms of STEM graduates, it still ranks 12th out of 16 peer countries. 21.2% of all graduates in Canada are from STEM programs, far behind countries such as France, Germany, and Austria. The peer country with the greatest proportion of STEM graduates, Finland, has over 30% of their university graduates coming from science, mathematics, computer science, and engineering programs.
In 2011, Canadian entrepreneur and philanthropist Seymour Schulich established the Schulich Leader Scholarships, $100-million in $60,000 scholarships for students beginning their university education in a STEM program at twenty institutions across Canada. Each year forty Canadian students would be selected to receive the award, two at each institution, with the goal of attracting gifted youth into the STEM fields. The program also supplies STEM scholarships to five participating universities in Israel.
Turkish STEM Education Task Force (or FeTeMM - Fen Bilimleri, Teknoloji, Mühendislik ve Matematik) is a coalition of academicians and teachers who show an effort to increase the quality of education in STEM fields rather than focussing on increasing the number of STEM graduates.
Qatar took the initiation to activate STEM through AL-Bairaq program. AL-Bairaq is carried out by Center for Advanced Materials (CAM) at Qatar University and targets high-school students with a curriculum that focuses on STEM. AL-Bairaq engages high school students in scientific activities which enhances their skills, motivation, and interest and guide them in their future career. Each year around 946 students participate in AL-Bairaq competitions with about 40 high schools in Qatar.
Women in STEM fields are often underrepresented, holding less than 25% of the jobs in the U.S. and 13% in the UK (2012). In the United States, studies have been conducted to explain this pattern, such as mechanisms in recruitment and hiring processes. On average, women in STEM fields earn 33% more than those in non-STEM professions. They also experience a smaller wage gap compared to men. However, women can be found as leaders in top professions around the country. These include the U.S. Department of Defense, NASA, and the National Science Foundation (NSF).
There has been significant debate about whether the emphasis on STEM curriculum is the proper approach and substantial skepticism of the claims of its advocates. Some have suggested STEM could not achieve the economic goals intended, and others have added additional subjects or qualifiers.