Despite primary and secondary schools having made great strides in an effort to bolster STEM education, it all leads to a future-driven and deeply stimulating learning environment in the form of post-secondary education. By analyzing the intricacies and changes made within these institutions, we can clearly see a stronger incorporation of STEM education than ever before.
In North America, many programs are offered every year that specialize in STEM skills. Geared towards individuals seeking careers in modernized fields, they encourage the development of high-level skills related to development, delivery, and assessment of science, technology, engineering, and mathematics instruction through carefully developed curriculum. Many are aimed at preparing graduate students for academic careers through hands-on experience and teaching portfolio development, which is designed to enhance awareness and availability of STEM instruction in modern society. It is the hope of many that this strengthening of education will entice students to pursue a STEM career through more readily available and knowledgeable forms of post-secondary training. Programs such as physics, chemistry, psychology, computer science, civil engineering, astronomy, software engineering, and robotics are just a few examples of STEM fields of study.
Gender Imbalances Remain
In a 2011 Statistics Canada survey, 15% of Ottawa residents possessed a certificate, degree, or diploma in a STEM-related field of study, tying with Calgary as the highest percentage out of Canada’s six largest cities. Of those, two-thirds are university degrees. However, only 27% of those who had completed these post-secondary programs were women, which is similar to the data collected across much of North America. The general consensus is that while there is gender parity in science-related fields, the remaining three (engineering, mathematics, and computer science) still remain heavily male-dominated. Therefore, despite STEM becoming increasingly popular as a sought-after collective skillset, more work needs to be done to reach gender parity across all fields. With continued investment, education, and economic shifts, it is possible that more females will be drawn to STEM studies and help balance the numbers more evenly. Employers also need to be willing to look past a highly skilled employee’s gender and simply inspect their qualifications.
It is common knowledge that a post-secondary education can be incredibly expensive and out of reach for many with more constrained budgets, to say nothing of STEM-focused curriculum and training. However, great strides are being made to reduce the financial burden of such instruction, enabling for students to focus more on becoming successful in their chosen fields without encountering barriers due to financial reasons. For example, in Canada, Ontario-based graduates only are required to start paying off their OSAP student loans once they earn $35,000 a year or more. This was recently introduced in the 2017 Provincial Budget, and is an increase from the previous annual figure per graduate of $25,000. In addition, countless incentives such as grants, scholarships, and credit options with affordable interest rates are helping to reduce the effect of financial stability on STEM learning.
A post-secondary education in STEM is the last phase of a process specifically designed to bolster our collective intellectual strength through careful and future-proofed training. It is clear that there is work to do in order to improve the appeal of such an education, but statistics indicate that the changes being implemented are already making a considerable difference.