STEM vs. STEAM: The Growing Importance of Arts

Mar 03, 2016

Image by: woodleywonderworks

Over the last couple of years, STEM (Science, Technology, Engineering, Mathematics) has been enjoying the limelight in schools worldwide. Every fresh school year sees a renewed commitment to the intricacies and scope of STEM to make education an enriching experience for kids.

The magic of technology and engineering has been the driving force for countless innovations across the world. With the youth being the harbinger of change, educating them in these aspects is going to push the world towards further powerful development and excellence.

The wonders of STEM aren’t restricted to K-12 education only. They have spread their wings beyond the realm of institutionalized education into the expanse of business and various industries as well. But the question is, do we really grasp what STEM strives to inculcate in us?

A Detailed Look at STEM Education

There’s a lot more to STEM than a conglomeration of the initials of the subjects the acronym indicates. You see, each of these subjects is taught to students in classes separated by the hallway. Each has a specific set of books, teachers and timings assigned, essentially making them disparate approaches to build a combined and comprehensive grasp of the idea. Now that is definitely, not what STEM strives to achieve.

Unlike conventional education where each subject is laid separate emphasis on, STEM education combines the subjects in a way that builds a connection between the disciplines and takes a cohesive stand on imparting education.

In other words, STEM involves equipping students with an integrated knowledge of all four subjects in a way that can be applied to solve real-world problems. Such application-based education helps students find a relevance between textbook-knowledge and how they manifest themselves in the world around them. This leads to making informed and educated decisions about almost anything they encounter.

The following video demonstrates the concept of STEM education in a lucid way.

Limits of STEM & the Birth of STEAM

As expanded the scope of STEM might seem, it, however, fails to cover a single aspect that binds innovation with imagination together.


And by creativity, I also mean the sources of inspiration that drive creativity – communication, design, the environment, languages and so on.

In other words, arts.

Arts is the glue that gives true meaning and perception to the discoveries of science and technology. It provides the scope for inventiveness to take root and grow into a well-planned structure of innovation that not only serves as a solution for crisis, but also a way to make the world a better place to live in. Just like technology, arts is at the core of transformation. And this was realized by experts at the Rhode Island School of Design (RISD), who had been the pioneers of integrating Arts in STEM.

Gradually, a new acronym was born – STEAM (Science, Technology, Engineering, Arts, Mathematics) – that quickly spread like wildfire as one of the most effective learning methods that actually drew results. It became widely accepted by institutions, businesses and even individuals.

And that is how STEAM was born and grew exponentially into a worldwide movement.

worldwide movement.

Image By: https://www.flickr.com/photos/wellingtoncollege/

The Importance of Arts in STEAM

The concept of STEAM ropes in critical thinking, problem-solving, design, environment and creativity to make it work cohesively with technology and science. It brings ‘Why’ into the equation. Addressing the far-reaching problems of humanity, STEAM strives to solve them via thorough studies and analysis and then devising plans that delve deep into the problems with their focused and effective solutions. These solutions are designed keeping in mind the welfare of the community and a plan to propel the global economy forward.

Arts in STEAM is a broad term. It encompasses language, liberal arts, fine arts, physical arts, music, social studies and design. Arts accommodate the functional part of education along with a fun and creative element. To put it in a different way, it puts ‘fun’ in functional, making it even more productive.

STEAM opens up new and effective avenues of exploration, thus making the learning experience even more fruitful.

The Growing Debate Concerning STEAM Replacing STEM

Amid the rising popularity of STEAM education, one question seems to have fueled the debate of STEAM replacing STEM – does the ‘A’ really make a difference?

Experts believe that the integration of Arts is going to shift the focus from core science subjects, thus diluting the entire purpose of STEM. On the other hand, supporters of the STEAM argue that this is not the case. Instead, STEAM education strives to incorporate Arts into the core science subjects in an attempt to fill the gaps of STEM education.

Arts engage students’ interests, nurtures motivation and expand the reach of science and technology. Arts provide a greater opportunity for expression and communication and consequently, forms an access to STEM for all kinds of learners.

Prominent personalities have been classic examples portraying the importance of STEAM. Steve Jobs is one of them. He had not only inspired the world with his brilliant innovations in technology but has also appealed to their dreams and hopes with a marketing strategy that was built on experiences and real-life problems. That is exactly the objective of STEAM education.

The odds of STEAM making a huge difference in the way education is imparted, is high and so is its possibility of making a positive impact on the minds of students.

What are your thoughts on the possible impacts of STEAM education? Do you think the integration of Arts will make a difference? Share your ideas with us in the comments section below. We would love to hear from you.




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