Why put the ‘A’ in STEAM?

Filling the pail

Despite an element of moral panic, there is well-founded concern in Anglophone countries about a decline in the science and mathematics skills of students. International studies such as TIMSS and PISA bear out some of this decline, none more starkly than the PISA mean scores for Scotland and Australia:

This has prompted discussion from politicians and policymakers focused on so-called on STEM subjects – Science, Technology, Engineering and Mathematics. Such discussion betrays the instrumental view of education that many policymakers hold; a view that sees education purely as training for the workplace and meeting the demands of workplace skills shortages. Not only is this myopic, it doesn’t actually fix the problem that has been identified.

Many STEM initiatives are superficial and silly – like the Australian government’s notorious STEM apps. They operate under the assumption that provoking short-term situational interest by, for example, asking a scientist to speak about…

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