STEM or STEAM – What’s Your Pick?

Doesn’t it feel like we had all just got on board with STEM and now all of a sudden everyone’s talking about STEAM? What the what?! What is STEAM? Where did the A come from? Is STEM now rendered ineffective? Which is better for students today and why?

STEM, as we all know, refers to Science, Technology, Engineering and Mathematics. These subjects have become a focal point in most learning systems and programs across the United States; lately, however, experts have been calling for the addition of the A which stands for Arts (thereby converting STEM to STEAM).  The study of the Arts has been proven not only to improve students’ academic performance, but also “build confidence, develop motor skills, and hone their decision-making and problem-solving skills”. Look at Steve Jobs (of Apple fame), Marissa Mayer (Yahoo) and Albert Einstein (genius!) – what do they have in common? Yes, they all boast superior technical knowledge but their personalities definitely also displayed a very vibrant creative side.

And isn’t there an Art & Design element to everything around us? No, seriously. Everything around us. Including the mobile phone, tablet or laptop you may be using to read this awesome blog post. Sure, it’s technology, but would you have bought this particular gadget if it looked and felt clunky? Why does Nike focus as much on the look of their shoes as they do on the technology that makes them perfect for basketball, or running, or whatever the case may be? It’s 2018, and consumers are not willing to spend on products where superior technology and good design are mutually exclusive (for more on this idea, read this article by Huffington Post).

Here’s another interesting angle: the Arts teach us soft and social skills. They teach us how to think critically, the flow of logical thought, ethics and morality, how to be humane and understand the nature of humanity. They expose us to new ideas and foreign concepts, and arm us with the ability to process innovative ideas in a better way. All of this, my friends, equates to superior emotional intelligence, one of the key characteristics of good leaders.

Let’s put it this way: if you had to choose between hiring someone with great technical skills, or hiring someone with great technical skills who also displayed leadership qualities and emotional intelligence, whom would you pick?

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