If you have children who are in preschool or primary school, you’ve probably been hearing about the importance of STEM education for a while now! Like many parents, you’ve probably been left wondering exactly what STEM means and how you can encourage your little one to take an interest in these topics.
What is early STEM education in Singapore?
STEM education in Singapore is a curriculum based on the idea of educating students in four specific disciplines – Science, Technology, Engineering, and Mathematics (STEM).
STEM is generally taught in an interdisciplinary and applied learning manner. Applied learning is an approach that emphasises authentic and practice-oriented learning experiences.
Associate Professor Lim Tit Meng, Chief Executive, Science Centre Singapore, explains that “Science and technology have provided the impetus for our economic growth and progress; raising us from a small settlement to an innovation and knowledge-driven society today”.
Science and technology have a huge part to play in Singapore’s progress and development.
Likewise, according to the Straits Times, Prime Minister Lee Hsien Loong explained that STEM education in Singapore is important because the skills are crucial to Singapore for the next 50 years: “building greener homes, connecting our waterways and parks […] and even complex projects like the High-Speed Rail link between Jurong East and Kuala Lumpur, all require expertise and skills in engineering, technology and design”.
Why start STEM education young?
Numerous studies have proven that children who experience exposure to STEM early on will be best equipped to understand more complex concepts later in their academic lives. The earlier STEM is incorporated into the daily curriculum, the better chance for children to develop a strong understanding and interest in STEM.
It is not difficult to teach STEM to young children as they have a natural and innate curiosity about the world around them. Simply by allowing them to explore, investigate and ask questions, we are already engaging them in STEM education.
On another note, grooming our children in STEM education from a young age can help to bridge the traditional ethnic and gender gaps often found in Math and Science fields.
STEM education that starts in the preschool classroom prepares children for the technological innovations that they will inevitably encounter in their lifetime. It also teaches children problem-solving skills from a young age. STEM requires children to analyse a problem and explain it through real world examples.
How does STEM work in the classroom?
Students who are proficient in STEM ideally are logical thinkers and are able to answer complex questions and develop solutions for problems. STEM does not mean a complete revamp of the existing lessons and curriculum.
Teachers can use simple words like experiment and model to create an environment where students will get accustomed to important STEM vocabulary. Students can use technology like iPads and computers – something that is already happening as Singapore’s Ministry of Education (MOE) has pushed hard for ICT (Infocomm technology) lessons in classrooms of every level.
Another method is by getting children to read stories, identifying a problem faced by any of the characters and then designing a solution for them. Of course, the stories must be books with some component of STEM. For example, these could be fictional stories about airplanes or robots. This can open young children’s eyes to the world of how engineers work.
A typical STEM lesson has 4 steps:
1. Identifying a real world problem
- Asking questions to explore the problem
- Developing solutions
- Exploring a hands-on activity
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There you go, mums, a quick guide to the world of STEM education. Now that you have a better idea of STEM education in Singapore, feel free to ask your children’s teachers to tell you more about how they are incorporating it in schools.
Also, if you are searching for preschools and enrichment classes, you might want to consider if they have a good STEM programme incorporated into their curriculum.
STEM enrichment classes
At Smart Science Lab (SSL), classes go beyond simple lessons of problem-solution based stories. With curriculum at SSL, they are using real-world scenarios and issues to teach kids as young as four-years-old STEM lessons through a hands-on experiential learning approach.
Remember, experiments are not all about beakers and scientific equipment. Instead, they can be conducted with common household items. The goal of the Smart Science Lab is to teach kids to understand more about the world they live in through everyday objects. The idea being that this better understanding will foster confidence and curiosity that will help kids do better in their studies as they get older.
Classes at the SSL are divided into three levels with each group covering eight topics over a two-year programme. The topics they cover are wide-ranging, everything from marine biology for kids in Kindergarten 1 and 2 to learning forensic science through fingerprinting and blood types for kids in Primary 1 and 2.
Besides classes focusing on scientific topics, SSL also offers mathematics enrichment classes in conjunction with the MOE syllabus. These classes are still taught using a hands-on methodology that focuses on experiences and kids discovering things for themselves. Some examples include teaching kids about how to identify counterfeit money and even learning fractions through pizza!
Find out more about the Smart Science Lab’s programmes and how you can enroll here.