Why learning Stem skills from a young age is so important

In this contributed post, MJ Chun, director of product, Anki, explains why children need to be exposed to science, technology, engineering and maths (Stem) from a young age.

Coding was added to the UK curriculum in 2014 but we recently undertook some research which revealed 43% of parents struggle to help their kids with coding homework, meaning that children don’t have the same support at home as with other subjects.

This automatically puts many children at a disadvantage when it comes to science, technology, engineering and maths (Stem). We all too regularly talk about the Stem skills gap and we know that businesses are crying out for Stem skills, but it’s difficult to know what ‘Stem’ jobs will look like in the future because of the rapid rate of change when it comes to technology.

While those who have grown up with less of a natural affinity for Stem subjects may find them intimidating, it’s important to remember that one of the most valuable skills that comes from Stem is creativity – something that all of us have to some degree. In addition to facilitating creative thinking, Stem subjects also involve skills like learning to problem-solve, being inventive and learning to fail.

In Anki’s experience, Stem doesn’t support one particular sector of jobs, but rather it empowers us to create new things which is a skill that is transferable to lots of jobs, not just those in technology.

Whilst the adoption of Stem subjects from a young age is important, what’s also equally important is how children learn Stem. This doesn’t just mean what they learn in the classroom but also the whole ecosystem around their learning which means how young people interact with parents, teachers and their wider communities.

Finding role models that children look up to as they learn, whether it’s a parent, guardian, teacher, sibling or community member, can accelerate and support their learning too, as can having a tool that’s interesting and fun, such as Anki’s AI-powered robot Cozmo, to take the first steps into Stem with.

This could be from someone who is encouraging them to stick with it, or someone they may see who creates with technology or codes in their job. Having Stem role models can be especially significant for girls, who may not as easily see themselves reflected in Stem fields.

Many people think of engineers when they think of Stem subjects, but Stem learning and subsequent skills can support a wide range of different roles. Anki believes that coding and robotics are tools for self-expression and creation, tools that children can use to invent and create with throughout their lives.

By adopting Stem-based skills from a young age, children can then apply their tech fluency to an almost endless number of different scenarios.

Ultimately, society benefits by having a more creative and empowered workforce, made up of people who are ambitious, inventive and not put off trying new things in case they fail. The individuals who learn Stem from a young age will grow up with an understanding that Stem is a communal subject, involving communication, collaboration and systems of support.

The key is to cultivate these communities so that more and more young people grow up not only with Stem skills under their belt, but also with the other applicable skills that go hand-in-hand with them.

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