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What Is STEAM Education and Why Is It Important?

STEAM education takes the concept of STEM education and moves it to the next level, incorporating the founding principles of this method with a broader artistic set of subjects,  giving students a more holistic understanding.  

STEM education has always prioritised a practical approach to learning by encouraging students to question, challenge and critique within the realms of science and technology. This method of applied learning is extended into STEAM education, which is designed to grant students an even more rounded appreciation of the world. 

Three girls learn through STEAM education

What does STEAM stand for? 

STEAM stands for science, technology, engineering, art and mathematics. An extension of STEM education, which was created in 2001, STEAM education adds art to the existing set of focus areas. 

The initial disciplines of STEM were brought together to prepare students for the growing needs of a global workforce that was beginning to prioritise these skillsets. At the time of its introduction, there was a perceived lack of interest and excitement among students for these subjects, so educators and institutions placed a greater focus on these areas. 

However, as time has gone on, an increasing need to integrate art into these disciplines has arisen. This has led to the rise of the STEAM education acronym.

The difference between STEM and STEAM in education 

The difference between STEM and STEAM in education is the integration of a number of art-focused subjects. It’s important to note that these are not limited to what we might initially think of as art (aesthetic fine art, for example), but rather any arts-based discipline. This includes social studies, liberal arts, music and physical arts. 

While STEM education sought to address a very specific gap in science, technology, engineering and mathematics, STEAM education aims to provide students with a more universal, all-encompassing method of understanding the world around them. 

Despite this major difference, STEM and STEAM education are underpinned by the same founding principles, which are to provide students with the skills to think critically, analyse problems and be innovative in their approach to providing practical solutions. 

The importance of STEAM education

Boy learning through STEAM education using spirit level

While some may claim that the addition of arts has taken focus away from the original STEM education subjects, the importance of its integration is vital. There is now a strong and important intersection between science, technology, engineering, mathematics and the arts. Introducing this fifth element allows students to be more creative in their approach to problem-solving, using the inventive and innovative skills learned by studying the arts to link these various fields. 

This collaborative thinking approach prepares STEAM education students for life after study. STEAM education promotes inquiry and process-based learning, rather than simply encouraging students to revise facts for tests and use this as a marker for success. It prepares students for the type of research-based approach that’s required for further education, as well as setting them up for the needs of the 21st century workplace.   

In the modern job market, possessing a combination of creative and analytical skills is more important than ever, as roles become multifaceted and require an appropriately adaptable skillset. Occupations within the STEAM industries are growing twice as quickly as those outside of it, with employers now looking for a wider range of skills in each candidate. For instance, a graphic designer role may previously have only required proficiency in visual arts and design; now, the same role may encompass coding and development, skills from the STEM area.  

The benefits of STEAM education

STEAM education has the following objectives: 

  1. Drive innovation by encouraging employers to place emphasis on the arts in recruitment 

  1. Encourage the repositioning of multiple areas of the arts to the forefront of education 

  1. Improve STEM education and research by integrating the arts 

Based on those aims, the benefit of STEAM education is improving the quality, diversity and innovation of the modern workforce by integrating multiple disciplines into education. 

The traditional approach of teaching individual subjects in isolation simply doesn’t fit with the challenges of the modern world, society and workplace; teaching students how to pass exams in various areas is simply not enough. STEAM education offers an interdisciplinary, collaborative approach to learning, that prepares students for real-world tasks and success.  

 

In conclusion, STEAM education takes the building blocks of STEM education and diversifies its approach by introducing and integrating a further methodology. The arts are a vital element of modern education that help to prepare students for further study and the workplace.  

You can read more about Nord Anglia’s approach to STEAM education here, as well as a case study of our collaboration with the Massachusetts Institute of Technology (MIT) and other examples of how our students take part in STEAM-related activities in our schools.  

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