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  • STEM Education … 21st Century Skills … They’ve become the much-esteemed, twin mantras of the Knowledge Society.In reality, they are so much more to the domestic populations, grassroots’ communities, and economies of nations, worldwide. 

    STEM Education and 21st Century Skills are now the benchmarks of the Global Economy Workforce and 21st Century education. Together, the STEM-21st Century Skills will ultimately distinguish the countries that will be able compete and excel in the Global Economy from countries that will not.

    Countries that do not systemically deliver the quality public school training needed from young childhood-into-adulthood for all public school students both to attain and apply STEM-21st Century Skills with proficiency … will continue struggle to “catch up” as their students stagnate and eventually slip further behind in their ability to compete in the Global Economy Workforce.

    Countries that systemically train all public school students from young childhood-into-adulthood to attain and apply STEM-21st Century Skills with proficiency these countries will not only compete, they will also excel among the Global Economy competition.

    Given their importance, worldwide It’s time for a much closer … realistic look at the STEM Education – 21st Century Skills, from their purpose and intent to the need for systemic, transformative education for all public schools. The time is now for 1.2 billion youth join Global Economy Workforce by year 2015 and the overwhelming majority of these youth are not prepared with 21st Century-Global Economy Workforce Skills … .

    1.2 Billion Youth join the Global Economy by 2015 … 90% of them are not prepared with the 21st Century Skills needed by the Global Economy Workforce …

    Purpose & Intent → Long-Term, Sustainable Growth …

    For countries, worldwide, the ultimate purpose and intent of STEM Education – 21st Century Skills is that they provide the foundation for a strong education infrastructure that enables the country to achieve and maintain long-term, sustainable economic growth and development.  In turn, long-term, sustainable economic growth and development provide one of the strongest insurance policies for any country to achieve and maintain national sovereignty and independence.

    Such admirable goals and objectives beg the question: What, exactly, is meant by “long-term, sustainable economic growth and development” … and what is meant by “STEM Education-21st Century Skills?” …

    Thomas Friedman’s 5 Pillars Of Growth … STEM-21ST Century Skills …

    In his newest book, That Used To Be Us: How America Lost Its Way in the World It Invented and How We Come Back, Thomas Friedman identified 5 pillars needed for strong, sustainable, national growth. To paraphrase Friedman, such growth is based on dedicated private-public partnership(s) implementing well-designed policies around these 5 pillars: education, immigration, infrastructure, risk/capital management, and scientific research.

    Although Friedman referred to America in his book, the principles represented by the 5 pillars are generally applicable to all nations. And education is, of course, the primary pillar. Without the necessary strong education infrastructure, the other 4 pillars will, indeed, eventually crumble.

    For most countries, worldwide, attaining a strong education infrastructure requires education transformation that is systemic, scalable and sustainable to assure that every student, at every grade level, at every public school both attains and can apply the STEM-21st Century Skills with proficiency, K-12→College→Career.

    A list of 21st Century Skills

    The question, then, is how can STEM Education – 21st Century Skills’ training be delivered systemically for every public school at proficiency levels that enable the home-land country to compete and excel among the Global Economy competition?

    Bloom’s Taxonomy Learning Domains … Proficiency With STEM 21st Century Skills …

    If a strong education infrastructure is grounded today on attaining proficiency with STEM-21st Century Skills, the guidelines for the infrastructure are found by going back in time to Bloom’s Taxonomy with its 6 Learning Domains

    In 1948, Dr. Benjamin Bloom and his group of educational psychologists developed a classification for levels of intellectual behavior that are important in learning. Published in 1956, the classification became known as the original Bloom’s Taxonomy, which included six developmental levels of learning: knowledge, comprehension, application, analysis, synthesis, and evaluation. Under Bloom’s Taxonomy, higher-order thinking grows from basic knowledge-recall skills to the highest levels of synthesis and evaluation needed for problem-solving, critical thinking and creativity, which are today regarded as important, much-needed 21st Century Skills.

    During the 1990s, Lorin Anderson, a former student of Bloom, led a new group of cognitive psychologists and updated Bloom’s Taxonomy for the 21st Century. In the image, below, you can see the two basic differences between the original and updated versions of Bloom’s Taxonomy. First, the updated domain names, indicated in red, were revised to reflect action and the belief that thinking involves actively engaged learnersSecond, the updated version reversed the positions of last two Domain Learning Levels, which are considered the top levels of higher-order learning.

    Bloom's Taxonomy Learning Domains

    Each level of Bloom’s Taxonomy contains important tasks that help students’ thought processes as they move to the next, higher-order level of learning. The tasks also help teachers who can focus on each learning level to develop lesson plans that integrate Bloom’s Taxonomy:

    Learning Domain Level #1 – Knowledge (Remembering): In the first Learning Level of Bloom’s Taxonomy, students focus on acquiring knowledge and remembering the information through memory, listing, recalling and repeating information.

    Learning Domain Level #2 – Comprehension (Understanding):  In the second Taxonomy Learning Level, students grow to understand the information by identifying, describing, discussing and explaining the information.

    Learning Domain Level #3 – Application:  It is significant that application is the third Learning Level. In Bloom’s Taxonomy, the application process requires students to interpret, demonstrate and write about the information as well as solve problems related to what they have learned. Application is the pivotal learning level with important tasks for students to continue to progress, acquire and use higher-order learning skills.

    Learning Domain Level #4 – Analysis:  In the fourth Domain Level, students learn to analyze by comparing, examining, contrasting and distinguishing the knowledge they’ve acquired with other information. Such analysis enables students to question, test and form opinions about their knowledge.  Such analysis is also integral to the important 21st Century Skills of problem-solving and creative thinking. 

    Learning Domain Level #5 – Synthesis (Evaluating): Within this higher-order Learning Level, students are given the opportunity to argue, support, defend and evaluate their opinion about the information.

    Learning Domain Level #6 – Evaluation (Creating):  In the highest Learning Level, students create a new product, project, or point of view.

    A great strength of Bloom’s Taxonomy is its broad applicability: The Taxonomy can be customized to use for any subject-matter content, at any grade level and in any culture, K-12→College→Career. Another important strength of Bloom’s Taxonomy is that it provides educators with six important learning levels that can be aligned to any government-mandated standards and used for assessing students’ performance levels, K-12→College→Career.

    It’s also important that the six Learning Domains are not mutually exclusive levels; they are interrelated. Although learners will progress from the first through the sixth Domain
    real-world applications will require learners to return to and integrate the six Domains as they progress from the first level [knowledge-remembering] to higher-thinking levels of learning [analysis-evaluation-synthesis].

    Even a cursory study of Bloom’s six Learning Domains will show that Level 3 “Application” is critically important for students to be able to attain the higher-order learning levels of analysis, evaluation and synthesis needed for the much-valued 21st Century Skills of problem-solving, critical thinking, collaboration, negotiation, leadership and creativity. In fact, Dr. Bloom believed education should be focused on subject-matter ‘mastery’ through application that promotes higher forms of thinking, rather than the passive-utilitarian approach that simply transfers facts and requires rote memory. 

    It’s now been more than 50 years since Dr. Bloom demonstrated that most teaching focused on “fact-transfer and information recall” the lowest training level. Unfortunately, today
    well into the second decade of the 21st Centuryin most public schools, worldwide, application of knowledge and information rises only to levels of “teaching-to-the-tests”. Rarely, if ever, are students provided K-12 learning environments where they can apply knowledge and information to real-world issues that will vest students’ interests and develop their abilities to analyze, evaluate, and create real-world projects.

    Rarely in public school systems, worldwide, do K-12 students systematically progress beyond Bloom’s Taxonomy Learning Domain 3 → “Application” …
    To the higher-order thinking levels of analysis, evaluation and synthesis [creativity]
    … And …
    For most public school students, “application” involves transferring facts in routine homework or short projects …

    If you closely compare the six Learning Domains of Bloom’s Taxonomy with the 21st Century Skills, three important facts are noteworthy.First, given the global public school drop-out rates and the fierce competition of the Global Economy Workforce, “application” in the 21st Century requires applied-learning of knowledge to real-world issues that are relevant to the students’ lives, to their grassroots’ community, to their home-land country and to the Global Economy.

    Second, all six Learning Domains of Bloom’s Taxonomy are required for students both to attain and be able to apply the STEM-21st Century Skills with proficiency, K-12→College→Career. And, third, what is referred to as STEM Skills are really Knowledge Domains, the first Learning Level of Bloom’s Taxonomy and one of eight important categories of 21stCentury Skills:

    Bloom’s Taxonomy Learning Domains … using 21st Century Skills: knowledge, understanding, application , analysis … evaluating, creativity.

    STEM Education … The Meaningful, Realistic Look …

    The importance of STEM Skills is not to be ignored. However, there is no consensus about either the meaning of the acronym STEM or the content areas included within the term-of-art “STEM Education”.

    STEM … The Acronym: A quick Google search reveals that there are more than 15 different meanings for this same ubiquitous acronym: STEM.  To a great many scientists, the acronym STEM represents “Scanning Tunneling Electron Microscope”, a much-revered instrument.

    However, for most educators, today, the acronym STEM represents science, technology, engineering and mathematics four subject areas much revered as the foundation of a strong education infrastructure for employment and sustainable economic growth in the Global Economy. The acronym for educators began to appear frequently during the 1990s as “STM” [science, technology, math], usually in conjunction with grant funding. Sometime, around the middle of the first decade of this century, the acronym was expanded to STEM to include engineering.

    But, among educators, education funders and other stakeholders, there is no consensus about what content areas are included within the term “STEM Education”. In recent years, the bold have bravely recommended that the arts and humanities deserve equal prominence in education and therefore, the acronym “STEM” should be expanded to “STEAM” or “STEAHM” and its “letters” should also include social studies, economics, sports, music … .

    STEM … The Arts, Humanities … And Other 21 st Century Skills: Fortunately, the comparison of Bloom’s Taxonomy and STEM-21st Century Skills places STEM Skills in a proper context: STEM Skills are … a Knowledge Domain … the first Level among six higher-order Learning Levels of Bloom’s Taxonomy. STEM Skills are also but one category among eight important categories of 21st Century Skills.

    The arts, humanities, economics, social studies … and yes, sports … should be included within current public school curricula because they are important developers of the six Bloom’s Taxonomy Learning Domains and at least seven of the eight categories of 21st Century Skills. Here are five of many justifications for such inclusions.

    1). 21st Century Skills – Higher-Order Learning Levels: Music and the other liberal and fine arts as well as sports provide students with the needed environments that develop, nurture and enable students to practice the important 21st Century Skills of “problem-solving, creative thinking, collaboration, negotiation and leadership.” And these same 21st Century Skills are also important, critical factors needed by students’ to master the higher-order Learning Levels of Bloom’s Taxonomy: “analysis, evaluation and synthesis [creativity]”.

    2). Science, Technology, Engineering, Math … Part Of Liberal Arts: It would be incorrect to conclude that science, technology, engineering and math are somehow separable from “liberal arts” or even the “fine arts”. As history buffs may well know in medieval times, arithmetic, geometry and music were all considered “liberal arts”. Today, liberal arts includes physical and biological sciences as well as social studies at many colleges. Further, the seamless integration and synergy of science, technology, engineering, math, the humanities and the fine arts have been evident from the works of the very early polymaths to the majesty, artistry and great engineering of the 17th and 18th Century Renaissance men: Leon Battista Alberti, Aristotle, Benjamin Franklin, Galileo Galilei, Johann Wolfgang von Goethe, Imhotep, Thomas Jefferson, Gottfried Wilhelm von Leibniz, MichelangeloIsaac Newton, Blaise Pascal, Leonardo da Vinci.

    Equally serious regard for some of the most iconic bridges of the world, today, clearly shows that science, technology, engineering and math integrate seamlesslyand beautifully with art to produce magnificent, pragmatic works of engineers: The Brooklyn Bridge [USA], Forth Railway Bridge [Scotland], Golden Gate Bridge [San Francisco. USA], Hangzhou Bay Bridge [Hangzhou Bay, China], Helix Bridge [Singapore], Henderson Waves Bridge [Singapore], Millau Viaduct [South of France], Millenium Bridge [London, UK], Octavio Frias de Oliveira Bridge [São Paulo. Brazil], Rainbow Bridge [Tokyo. Japan], Széchenyi Chain Bridge [Budapest. Hungary], Tower Bridge [London, UK].

    3). Complexities Of The Global Economy: The financial, economic and political connections of the Global Economy are vast, complex and interrelated. Countries, worldwide, need to provide a well-rounded, multidisciplinary public school education to produce populations with the needed skills and abilities to analyze and understand the complexities and interconnections of the Global Economy. Such an education must include economics, business finance and civics [government] as well as STEM Education. Reverting back to Thomas Friedman’s 5 pillars of national growth … investment in entrepreneurship and infrastructure require not only the STEM Skills, but also business, economics and entrepreneurial leadership skills. Ultimately, each country’s long-term, sustainable growth, sovereignty and independence depend upon a population that acquires multidisciplinary learning to develop proficient 21st Century Skills.

    4). Global Public School Drop-Out Rates: Global public school drop-out rates are at a staggering 50% with barely 40% of all college/university freshmen graduating from a 4-year college or university. Remove art, music, the humanities and sports from K-12→College public schools and these student dropout rates will only increase.

    5).The 7-8 Hour School Day … And Common Sense:Finally, there is the “common sense” analysis of the days in the lives of public school students. For five days a week, the average public school student spends 7-8 hours a day at school. Even if the public school were to require science, technology and math classes every day [and few, if any, public schools do] and even after allowing for lunch, recess and study periods there would remain at least 1-2 hours of each school day that must be filled with learning for students. It would be wise for public school systems to provide 1-2 days a week of civics, economics, the arts and sports to prepare students for the complexities of the Global Economy.

    STEM Education … Basic Content Areas Plus: Realistically, pragmatically … what content areas should public school systems include within STEM Education? Common sense and global education competitors quickly provide answers.

    Common-sense analysis of STEM Education for the 21st Century leads to the conclusion that basic STEM content should be taught at appropriate K-12 grade levels at all public school systems: elementary mathematics [addition, subtraction multiplication, division], algebra 1 and 2, geometry, trigonometry, biology, chemistry, physics and computer science. 

    Collectively, The Ford Program’s donations of 83+ upgraded MultiMediaSTEM Entrepreneurship iLAB Programs cover 16 vital science areas …

    In addition to the basic STEM content for countries that want to excel among the Global Economy education competition provided by Shanghai, Korea, Hong Kong, Singapore, Finland, Canada, Japan and New Zealand with their strong education infrastructures additional STEM content must be provided for public schools, including nanotechnology and biotechnology.

    And, countries, worldwide, that want to close painful K-12→College education gaps, quickly, will carve out 1-2 hours a week for transformative STEM Applied-Learning Training for K-12 students, in addition to classroom work and as part of the core public school curricula. It is STEM Applied-Learning Training that enables students to progress through all six Bloom’s Taxonomy Learning Domains as they apply all eight categories of STEM-21st Century Skills to real-world science and engineering issues challenging their grassroots’ communities, their nation, and the Global Economy … .

    The Ford Program

    … is committed to help close persistent education gaps in public schools, worldwide, K-12→College→Career.