Promoting STEAM Education in Latin America
Penny Atkinson, Volunteer Writer
The youth of Latin America face multiple challenges in their prospects of securing stable employment. Though the reasons for this are complex (one being an access to free, quality education), the consequences are far reaching.(1) Additionally, with technology evolving so rapidly, we can no longer predict what future jobs will be in demand. Technology is already replacing a lot of task-based work and it is estimated that 25% of jobs in LAC are at high risk(2) of being made redundant by automation. This means that employers are looking for people to take on jobs that technology cannot do – those that require creativity, critical thinking and collaboration.
Not only is it important to prepare all students for the future economy, but for countries to truly benefit, more girls and women must have the opportunity to access jobs in science and technology. According to the World Bank(3), for every year a girl stays in school, her future earnings will increase exponentially, and when women are able to earn an income, they typically reinvest 90% of it back into their families and communities. When collaborative design, content and innovations such as STEAM methodologies are used, they can have a powerful role in promoting gender equality, leading more girls and women to engage in these studies and careers.
What is STEAM education?
The STEAM curriculum explores the traditional STEM subjects of Science, Technology, Engineering and Maths, with the recent, but crucial addition of the Arts. This is the glue that allows students to bridge the connections across the technical subjects, and tackle problems from a range of perspectives, by drawing upon artistic skills such as empathy and creativity. By employing a project and collaboration-based approach to learning, theories are turned into real-life models and, as a result, students can apply their studies to the world around them. STEAM also recognises that, as we all think differently, there is no single way to reach an outcome. Instead, students are empowered to devise their own solution-creating methods. And so, through STEAM learning, students develop the foundational skills – perseverance, problem solving, creativity, critical thinking, entrepreneurship and team building – that are indispensable in today’s modern workplace.
BF STEAM Challenge- Join us!
In support of this, we are launching our STEAM programme this year to encourage children from across Latin America to participate in Our Better World Challenge. The challenge invites children to develop solutions that address either a social challenge in their community. In up to groups of 3, children can choose from two topics and will need to independently explore possible solutions to their chosen topic. Registrations are now open via our website and all applicants will have to submit their proposals online by the 31st of July 2021. Later in the year, we will be releasing a series of STEAM workshops for primary schools to incorporate into their classrooms which provides a framework for children to apply what they have learned to a real world problem at home.
What is our STEAM challenge about?
We are inviting primary school children across Latin America between grade 4 and grade 8 (9 to 13 years old) to propose and develop a solution to a social or educational problem derived from the Covid-19 pandemic.
See below the two topics you can choose from:
If the past year has taught us anything, it is that the world is changing fast with old systems proving unsustainable. Therefore, to engage students in meaningful learning experiences while preparing them to adapt and compete in the global marketplace, a broader background in education is essential. The STEAM method of education can help provide more opportunities for young people, by contributing towards a diverse talent pipeline and therefore, an infrastructure of people who can, not just participate, but lead in today’s global economy. Before the pandemic, STEM jobs were projected to increase 1.7 times faster(4) than non-STEM employment, yet there aren’t currently enough skilled workers to fill STEM positions(5). A comprehensive education leads to higher employment, incomes and productivity, which are vital not only to a nation’s growth, but an individual’s ability to live a good life. The job market of the future requires flexibility, creativity, collaboration and innovation; skills that are rooted in STEAM education models.
(1) WE FORUM. How can we transform education in Latin America?, 2015, https://www.weforum.org/agenda/2015/05/how-can-we-transform-education-in-latin-america. Accessed 21 04 2021.
(2) INTER-AMERICAN DEVELOPMENT BANK. Skills for Life, 2021, https://publications.iadb.org/publications/english/document/Skills-for-Life-Digital-Skills.pdf. Accessed 21 04 2021.
(3) WE FORUM. Why women make the best tech investments?, 2014, https://www.weforum.org/agenda/2014/01/women-technology-world-economy/. Accessed 21 04 2021.
(4) US DEPARTMENT OF COMMERCE. STEM: Good Jobs Now and for the Future, 2011. https://files.eric.ed.gov/fulltext/ED522129.pdf. Accessed 21 04 2021.
(5) LANSING STATE JOURNAL. Encouraging and supporting women in STEAM, 2021. https://eu.lansingstatejournal.com/story/money/careers/2021/03/19/encouraging-supporting-women-steam/115575744/. Accessed 21 04 2021.