STEM stands for science, technology, engineering, and mathematics. This term is used to group together these four academic disciplines. STEM education is important because all four disciplines are prevalent in all aspects of our lives. The U.S. Department of Commerce states that STEM occupations are increasing at 17%, while non-STEM occupations are only growing at 9.8%. Additionally, individuals who hold STEM degrees have higher incomes than people who hold non-STEM degrees.
STEM education is thought to bridge gender and ethnic gaps that are oftentimes found within the fields of science and math. National and local organizations should come together to increase the access of under-represented youth. This can be done by developing, sharing, and evaluating effective ways to foster family engagement in STEM experiences, as well as improving STEM schools and increasing community learning experiences.
The future of sustained growth and stability of the economy in the U.S. relies on STEM education; despite that fact, U.S. science and math scores are lagging in comparison with other developing nations. This is where family engagement comes into play to help students in the U.S. value the importance of STEM education. In order to increase family engagement in STEM, school administrators and educators need to provide the following types of resources and programs for parents to have access to:
- Understanding and Navigating the U.S. School System: Parent coordinators are a great way to educate Latino parents about the U.S. school system and ultimately be able to navigate the system. These parent coordinators should answer phone calls and correspondence as well as help with translating forms and documents sent home from school with their children.
- Emphasis on Children and Parents Programs: Programs that include activities that simultaneously educate both parents and children are effective in garnering family engagement. Programs as such demonstrate to parents just how crucial their role is as their children’s first teacher. Parents and children can create science projects together or create gadgets or even play fun math games with flashcards.
- Give Parents and Family Members a Voice: Schools and teachers can create groups or parenting blogs that offer parents access to resources as well as giving them a platform to ask questions or mention concerns. Parents will appreciate this platform as they can seek guidance and support from school administrators, teachers, or other parents.
- Access To STEM Opportunities: Educators should hold informal events at libraries, museums, or schools that offer parents and children insight to math and sciences. Additionally, setting up presentations that inform parents and children of the importance of STEM is also a great idea.