The chief focus for parents when considering their children’s education tends to fall on the academic. Parents feel reassured that academic subjects can be easily measured, tested, and scored and lead to qualifications.
However, some of the most essential skills children need to not only to continue to succeed with their learning but also in their working life beyond formal education, even though this may feel too far away for parents to consider, are the more individual skills associated with STEM skills.
STEM stands for Science, Technology, Engineering and Maths and at first glance parents might rate skills in the first three less important than other academic ones, like reading and writing for example.
But the first impression doesn’t tell the complete picture. In order to succeed in Stem subjects children also need a whole range of other skills including the ability to use written language effectively and manage research, so reading and writing naturally become part of the skills being developed in conjunction with Stem skills.
Alongside those, but maybe less well understood, is the fact that youngsters also need the types of skills that help them think creatively, problem solve, see solutions from other angles, invent, have a developed spatial awareness (something gaming’s good for), communicate effectively, work as a team and accept others’ ideas, and so on. And this is why creative, experiential and social activities are equally as important as the academic since they help develop these skills.
Many essential skills are personal and often develop outside the formal learning environment as much as in it. This is where parental involvement matters, through parents encouraging a variety of activities, rather than just reading or academic study at home.
Personal skills are regularly overlooked, yet are important to a young person’s ongoing achievement. For example, a child who is social and able to chat and communicate well and express their ideas through the spoken and written word are more likely to be listened to and respected which in turn builds their confidence, another valuable life skill.
There is a collection of ideas in this article here with suggestions for activities which encourage this kind of personal development.
It also illustrates how much the child’s success can be governed by what goes on at home. How creating an atmosphere which supports and values time spent learning and doing a range of activities, along with being inquisitive and curious, having discussions as a result of questioning, all builds skills which in the end reflect upon a young person’s success.
So parents shouldn’t just focus on academic skills alone as a way of supporting their child’s educational achievement, but instead incorporate a range of activities that will build a diverse range of skills.
As Darwin suggested, and many employers would uphold, it is diversity that will help our species succeed and it is individuals with a diverse intelligence and skills set who become the more employable and successful. Stem skills help that happen.