Born in the USA in 2005, ‘STEM’ (Science, Technology, Engineering, and Mathematics) education concept has since been addressing the growing concerns that the current crop of students are actually ill-equipped for the high-tech jobs due to the lack of skills in the STEM subjects. Systematic, comprehensive programs have been put in places across the globe to promote the awareness of STEM education with varying degrees of success.
Barely a year later, Georgette Yakman, an education researcher, expanded ‘STEM’ into ‘STEAM’ to incorporate ‘Arts’, an equally crucial subject into the equation. Her philosophy revolves around the concept of “STEAM = Science and Technology, interpreted through Engineering and the Arts, all based in the elements of Mathematics”.
In Malaysia, some would opine that ‘STEAM’ may complicate the 60:40 initiative as it’s supposed to achieve the goal of getting 60% Science stream students with the Arts students making up the other 40%. The MOE initiative arguably could be losing ‘steam’ sooner than expected.
Some quarters even go further to add in ‘English’ as well, being a universal language of learning for all the 5 subjects. Acronymically, perhaps we can add in the ‘E’ as in ‘English’ to become ‘STEAME’ or ‘ESTEAM’? Or maybe to totally reshuffle it into something more mouth-watering such as ‘EATSME’?
If given a choice, I would opt for ‘R’ as in ‘Reading’ instead of ‘E’ as in ‘English’. Reading is the key to knowledge. Any Muslim would know that the very first Quranic Verse is ‘Iqra’ or ‘Read’ in Arabic. Reading (and writing) is the first step in education and what’s more in the age of the digital world where we have multiple screens with reading as the favorite pastime; be it while waiting for buses, commuting in LRT, walking in the park, dining with family members, and unfortunately prevalent… while driving.
Orthographically, the ‘R’ as in ‘Reading’ will create a nice acronym of ‘STREAM’ (Science, Technology, Reading, Engineering, Arts, and Mathematics). ‘Stream’ after all means the ‘continuous flow’ of knowledge passing on to the next generations via effective STREAM education as we build the legacy of our future.
Perhaps we can add in the missing element in the initial concept by Georgette Yakman which now should be read as; “STREAM: Science and Technology, interpreted through Engineering and the Arts, conveyed through Reading and Writing, all based in elements of Mathematics.”