Companies back STEM efforts as Maryland seeks to revamp science education
In Maryland, an effort to improve STEM education began in 2009.
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The focus of Singapore's education system has all along be on STEM skills. This can be traced back to the intent of the education system immediately after Singapore gained independence.
As we widen the scope of our education journey for the next generation, our focus on STEM is still strong. The main question is whether the current curriculum is best positioned to prepare our next generation for the kind of STEM skills that are needed for their future.
Before we reflect our own education system, we have to think what constitutes the 21st century STEM skills. According to iseek.org, the key STEM skills are:Analytical skills to research a topic, develop a project plan and timeline, and draw conclusions from research results.Science skills to break down a complex scientific system into smaller parts, recognize cause and effect relationships, and defend opinions using facts.Mathematic skills for calculations and measurements.Attention to detail to follow a standard blueprint, record data accurately, or write instructions.Technical skills to troubleshoot the source of a problem, repair a machine or debug an operating system, and computer capabilities to stay current on appropriate software and equipment.
Our Science assessment is still largely based on content regurgitation (qualify by questions that focus on definitions, description and some basic explanation) and content application. There has been some apparent modifications to the assessment done to the pure sciences, which are offered to the higher ability science students in upper secondary (ages 15 and 16). Closer examination of the modifications did not reveal a significant alignment of the assessment items with the STEM skills as the students can be drilled to ace the items.
We have to adopt a significant shift in our assessment of Science. I would boldly propose the following
1. Implement items that focus a lot on real-life case studies. Data provided should not be ideal, and should include some "noise". Our O level papers should not be overly "easy" for our students. To facilitate the focus towards analytical and critical thinking, a further content reduction should be considered.
2. Implement items which test students on their ability to grasp new concepts, apply them. A seperate paper or a new section where students are assessed on their ability to learn a new scientific theory and thereafter apply the theory learnt into generally similar context. Though this could spark schools with high ability students to chase for more content, it could be compensated by their students being unable to deepen the content specified in the curriculum and thus unable to do well for the proposal in point 1.
3. Introduce oral assessment for Science. By far this is the craziest idea that I am proposing. A student who can confidently and accurately discuss scientific concepts is one who I believe has achieved the highest point of understanding of the concept according to the Bloom's taxonomy.
That's all for today! :)