What Is STEM Education and What Are Its Benefits?

Education that focuses on science, technology, engineering and math is called STEM education. This program was developed by former United States President Barack Obama to advance American students' proficiency in these academic disciplines.

The STEM program was implemented in 2009 by President Obama. The rationale for the program was the low number of American students choosing to pursue careers in the fields of science, technology, engineering and mathematics. At the time of the program's implementation, fewer than 20 percent of all students in the United States chose to follow careers related to these disciplines after graduating, says the U.S. Department of Education (DOE). The program is designed to be an interdisciplinary approach to education that integrates the instruction of all four disciplines rather than treating them as distinct subjects. The STEM program establishes several goals for schools and educators to strive for in the program. By the end of 2020, the DOE hopes to see an increase of 62 percent of people pursuing careers in the field of biomedical engineering, which is the largest increase of any discipline. The next biggest increase is for the field of medical science, where the DOE wants to see a 38 percent increase in job growth by 2020. That number is 32 percent for system software developers, 22 percent for computer systems analysts and 16 percent for careers in the field of mathematics, as stated by the DOE.

The STEM Framework
To achieve those goals, the STEM program enlists the help of 13 federal and state agencies. The program encompasses a five-year federal plan, which is designed to attract and retain qualified educators, and it is backed financially by a larger allocation of federal funding towards the program. In 2014, for instance, the program received a $3.1 billion investment, which was nearly a seven percent growth from 2012, says Livescience.com. The STEM program also has support from 13 major federal agencies, which are collectively called "CoSTEM," to carry out the program's mission. Together, the appointed federal agencies develop programs for kindergarten through 12th-grade education, undergraduate studies and public learning opportunities. In addition to the assistance of the CoSTEM group, several other agencies and organizations work specifically towards making the STEM program more accessible to historically underrepresented groups, including women, students with disabilities, African Americans and Latinos. These organizations include the Smithsonian Institute and the National Science Foundation in addition to the DOE.

Students are introduced to concepts of the STEM program at a young age. The program begins its education in elementary school, when students are introduced to real-world concepts that are deemed central components of the STEM program. This is more of an exploratory phase of education that is designed to introduce the four disciplines and relate them to students' lives outside the classroom. In middle school, students begin formal education through the STEM program. In addition to taking traditional academic courses and exams, they're introduced to possible career paths that are possible through STEM training. Students' learning becomes more challenging in high school, where they are exposed to even more STEM-based classes. Students at this level are prepared for postgraduate studies in related disciplines. They are encouraged to seek internships and bridge the gap between in-class learning and real-life practices. The program at this level places a particular emphasis on including and training under-represented groups to prepare them for postgraduate studies and employment. Select postgraduate institutions are awarded grants to continue STEM training for interested students.