Now more than ever, it appears that the education system is focused heavily on STEM (Science, Technology, Engineering, and Mathematics) subjects. This has particularly been seen in the United States, with plenty of encouragement from public officials, companies, and foundations. Universities are no exception to this rule, especially as employment rate for these fields is growing; over 5 million college graduates have STEM careers.
This fantastic outlook for careers in the STEM-field seems promising, especially when children are scoring higher than ever on standardized tests. According to the National Assessment of Educational Progress, mathematics scores among fourth and eighth-graders have increased by 12 points or more. Advanced Placement (AP) test-takers have nearly doubled for mathematic and science subjects, when comparing 2003 to 2013. Short term, the focus on STEM appears to be beneficial to student success rate.
While successes remain high from grade school to high school, there is a plummet around the college years and beyond. Many students choose the STEM-route because so many others do, and the increased employment rate seems promising. Yet, there is an untold part to this story.
Once STEM students arrive to college, their success rates seem to decrease. 28% of bachelor’s and 20% of associate’s degree students start off as STEM majors. Several years down the road, however, 48% of bachelor’s and 69% of associate’s degree students either change their major or drop out of college completely.
Yet, non-STEM majors do not appear to have this issue, especially humanities and education students. Why is there this gap in successful college students? Because of the pressure that starts in grade school, students begin to deal with academic overconfidence, which can lead to burnout later on. Competition begins to spiral out of control after years of students rivaling over their test scores, becoming unhealthy by the time they reach college.
Not only is this emphasis on STEM unhealthy for students, but it’s also unhealthy for the rest of society. There are problems within STEM students, but majors outside of STEM are practically ignored, leaving students upset. The solution? An emphasis on the arts, both in and out of STEM.
It has been suggested before that STEM be turned into “STEAM,” “STREAM,” or “STEMM,” to incorporate art, reading, or music into the acronym. While a great idea at the surface, this is almost avoiding the point. Discussing the arts and STEM as individual subjects is just going to further the problem. The key lies in proving the interdisciplinary nature of these subjects: Art and science are different manifestations of the same thing. Science cannot solve everything; artists, designers, and writers can offer a different perspective, ask questions, and form collaborations.
Fortunately, Indiana University is incredibly interdisciplinary, and offers premier programs for all disciplines. While being a member of the Association of American University, IU also has one of the best music schools in the country. The university’s rankings in Business, Communications, and Public Administration are tough to beat. Chemistry, biology, nuclear physics, and programming are also competitively ranked programs offered at IU. Indiana prides itself on encouraging interdisciplinary success in its students.
However, an interdisciplinary approach to education shouldn’t just begin in college. Diversifying education should begin at a young age. Parents may find it best to homeschool their child or establish after-school learning to ensure their student is receiving a well-rounded education. Choice of curriculum allows parents to set their child up for success, especially for families homeschooling in Indiana.
With proper, well-rounded education, students can become successful and make a positive impact on the world. Indiana University offers a unique, interdisciplinary approach that recognizes the importance of art in a STEM-focused society. But the encouragement of art and humanities must begin before the college years.