Learning World: How Crucial Is STEM?
STEM is a popular abbreviation for Science, Technology, Engineering and Mathematics. This week's Learning episode looks at how initiatives and universities around the world are trying to change and improve STEM education to make it more attractive to young people.
Part 1 - SCI-Tech, Singapore
Singapore's Nanyang Technological University (NTU) is a renowned center for cutting-edge research and for the arts and media schools. The university offers students courses in science and technology combined with creative ways of thinking and teaching. The hope is that these students will not just be qualified engineers or researchers but leaders in their fields.
For example: students pursuing higher studies in STEM subjects on the Renaissance Engineering programme also sign up for courses in business studies and social sciences.
"An engineer cannot only know how to create a product, they have to know if this product has a selling point, if it can appeal to the public. This is when you need to know how the society works, using social science," says a student.
Prof Bertil Anderssson, president of NTU explained: "It's actually more important to learn how to learn; how to use the information available. And also to be a little bit entrepreneurial, and understanding group leadership, social skills. So this is what we have been doing at NTU, to make education even in engineering a little bit softer, a little bit broader."
Part 2 - Nothing Boring, Cyprus
Science just got more interesting in Nicosia, Cyprus. The local Community Media Centre is hosting an educational science show called Vikexploratorium.
Viken Tavitian, the creator of Vikexploratorium, said: "The idea of the experiments is to have a hands-on approach to education. Many people hear the theories but they have no idea of how it is applied in real life, but I show the opposite sequence of events. I do the experiments to show what is the actual theory behind it. It's like I come from the practical aspect of the science, rather than starting from the theory and going to the practice."
Viken, a former physics researcher at the University of Illinois, moved to Cyprus and found it impossible to get a job as a researcher. Eventually, a he opened an Armenian bakery -- but with a science twist.
"We would do my science shows here to attract the kids and also we would like to teach them the science of food as well, because baking has a lot to do with science, thermodynamics, physics and the bio-chemichal effects of baking with heat," explains Viken.
Viken believes that science education is too important to be given up: "I want to raise my children in an environment where science is like fun; they relate science and technologies to what is around them; they are not just simple users, they really understand the technologies, how they have been developed, so they, themselves, can capture the essence of it and be educated in the spirit of it. The spirit of science is the most important thing."
Part 3 - Innovation City, Russia
Skolkovo is believed to be Russia's 'Innovation City". Four years ago, the government allocated over 2 billion euros to develop a STEM (Science, Technology, Engineering and Maths) hub for students. One of the key goals is to connect science and business, so that STEM subjects become more relevant to real life and more helpful to the economy.technology.
The Skolkovo Institute of Science and Technology (Skoltech) is due to be officially opened later this year in September.
But students are already enrolling in the pilot programme. Oleg Alekseev, vice-president of the program, is optimistic about the future: "I don't think its obvious today for most people. But If you want to control markets and have a good quality economy, you have to control technologies. In order to have a successful innovation centre you need a technology university at its core."
The Skoltech campus will host 1,200 post-graduate students. The concept is based on the experiences of the Massachusetts Institute of Technology, among others.
Ilya Dubinsky, the director at the Skoltech Centre for Entrepreneurship & Innovation said: "It is almost impossible to develop the idea right through to its social impact if you are working alone. You need to work with other people who can deal with aspects you cannot. You need to find investors and talk to them in their own languages. You need to find engineers from other spheres. You need to find sales managers. Other countries are in a better position compared to us. They already have this ecosystem. We have to create this business environment from scratch."