The STEM narrative and the impact of international testing

Year: 2018

Author: Howell, Jennifer, Blackley, Susan

Type of paper: Abstract refereed

This presentation spotlights integrated STEM education, providing a brief historical overview of how STEM education has developed globally over the past 15 years. We define “integrated STEM education” and report on creative ways in which it can be implemented as early as possible in formal schooling. This report is based on our research in this field since 2011, and in particular, using programmable robotics (such as LEGO WeDo and EV3 Mindstorms) as a context to develop STEM and interpersonal skills. In this regard, we leverage 21st century competencies as a pivotal component in the integrated STEM education rhetoric. Critical issues facing teachers and education authorities in regard to the implementation of STEM education are examined in detail, both nationally and internationally, as developed and developing countries struggle to implement authentic integrated STEM education.
Of particular note in the discussion is the impact of international testing regimes, such as the Programme for International Student Assessment (PISA) and Trends in International Mathematics and Science Study (TIMSS), on government policy and financial support for STEM programs in schools. Internationally, a country’s ranking and progress in these rankings over time have contributed to a knowledge economy competition rather than a commitment to excellent teaching practices and appropriate resourcing for teachers.
Finally, we delve into blue-sky thinking as we consider how the STEM education agenda can move forward as a legitimate curriculum focus, and how this could impact the number and nature of school leavers who engage with STEM disciplines or related fields.