STEAM v STEM: the needless battle

Coeducation is education for life. Naturally

The work of Jasmine Kay Uy for her University of Texas at Austin Department of Art, and Art History Digital Foundations class, with Bethany Johnson, titled "Art is Pointless..."

The work of Jasmine Kay Uy for her University of Texas at Austin Department of Art, and Art History Digital Foundations class, with Bethany Johnson, titled “Art is Pointless…”

Stephen Roberts – Director of Arts

“The future belongs to young people with an education and the imagination to create.”

Barack Obama

We find ourselves on the precipice of an evolving educational landscape. As educators responsible for the development of future citizens, we must shine a light firmly on innovation and creativity in a bid to address global economic, social and environmental challenges.

Many commentators and analysts have stated that our current education system has remained largely unchanged since the advent of the Industrial Revolution. Certainly, since becoming a teacher in the early 2000s I have always felt somewhat tethered to the one-size-fits-all model of education. ‘Success’ is ranked according to a predetermined formula with the results averaged and fitted to a bell curve from which a ranking can be defined.

If you have been teaching as long as I have, then there is a very good chance that, like me, you have attempted to ‘teach’ a student to pass a test. You would have also failed a student who did not produce the pre-determined result, despite knowing that the failing student had ability

Clearly, this is not the best grounding for our children to develop the tools to unlock the demands of the 21st century, with innovation and creativity integral to their future.

STEM education

Many posit STEM as the solution to innovation and creativity: it is said that STEM education is the key to providing our students with the tools to unlock the 21st century. provides resources for teachers of STEM projects to prepare for “an information-based and highly technological society”. It states that, “Reports have shown that 75% of jobs in the emerging economy will require literacy in STEM. Additionally, STEM capabilities such as skills in collaboration and teamwork, creative and critical thinking, and problem solving will become crucial.”

All of this would be music to my ears; however, the irony of such a statement cannot be lost on those who would like to put an A in STEM.

STEM education is committed to growing skills in science, technology, engineering and mathematics due to research that indicates that 75% of the fastest growing occupations need these skills.

However, there is a glaring omission in the education of a student in the digitally disrupted future, and that is learning to discover what it is to be human. We are progressing at an unstoppable pace into a world of automation: jobs that have traditionally been attributed to us, are now being carried out by a robot that is more efficient and effective.

Our expendability in the new world is forcing education to reassess itself…but surely not to the point where we compromise our profound human understanding and the capacity to be creative, imaginative and innovative?

Next week – Finding Innovation in the Arts