Towards a sustainable future through STEM
| Rania Lampou - 01 Aug 2023

The UN SDGs are related to several challenges that must be overcome, and STEM education is essential to doing so. The focus of STEM education must shift from academic technical knowledge towards a much broader transdisciplinary and complex issue-solving strategy that integrates societal and sustainable problem assessments with academic technical information and solutions to achieve these aims. STEM encourages students to develop their analytical and problem-solving skills as well as their ability to work in a variety of teams. This article emphasizes the ways institutions can resolve the difficulties of sustainability through student-centered and problem-based learning. The article stresses the importance of new STEM competencies in the school curriculum. Educational leadership and research are necessary to steer STEM education in this way.

How, for instance, is the engineering industry evolving? Since engineering is a problem-solving field, learning must be problem-based. Science subjects will benefit from a more inquiry-based approach mixed with design thinking and interdisciplinary collaboration with other school subjects starting in early childhood education and continuing throughout the educational system. Students of engineering must learn how to analyze societal issues, find solutions, and create technologies that will enhance sustainable living. Several trends influencing STEM education, such as developing technologies and the employability agenda, as well as diversity concerns like gender balance, reinforce this approach.

According to the first UNESCO Engineering Report: "Problems, Challenges and Opportunities for Development", there are several difficulties in engineering education, such as attracting students as well as adapting to the various ways that information is produced and used (UNESCO, 2010). The majority of the SDGs may be addressed through STEM education, which is also crucial for combining humanitarian, social, and economic development, in the societal processes that support peace and justice.

Within the scope of the current SDGs, students beginning their STEM studies will put their learning into practice. As technology advances, so should the learning objectives for STEM education, which will necessitate modifications to both the subject matter and the teaching and learning process. To help STEM students develop the necessary technical skills and teach them how to deal with the challenges of sustainable development about their discipline and societal impact we should approach STEM teaching through an integrated understanding of complex problem identification and problem-solving.

According to UNESCO, STEM advancements have already improved several facets of life, including renewable energy, agriculture, infrastructure, and health. Moreover, STEM education is essential for preparing students for the workforce and facilitating admittance into tomorrow's in-demand STEM occupations. Even the World Economic Forum has used STEM education-acquired skills as a gauge of a nation's future readiness.


1. Enhancing  STEM teaching practices in classrooms.

This serves as the cornerstone of lifelong learning and higher STEM education. To ensure that all learners acquire the knowledge and skills needed to promote sustainable development, the topic of sustainability must also be integrated into the curriculum of all educational institutions, including schools, universities, and professional training bodies.

2. Interdisciplinarity, sustainable development, and employability in STEM programs.

Governments should place more emphasis on transdisciplinary curricula, sustainable development, and professional capabilities while coupling these with funding schemes that meet these requirements. National accreditation standards should be developed, along with incentives and rewards for institutions that fulfill the standards. These incentives should include award/reward teaching systems for academic staff, community-building, sabbaticals, annual awards for educational innovation, annual grants for academic development, etc.

3. Investment in STEM studies.

Governments should encourage and fund research in STEM fields to advance training and learning on a systemic level. Studies should emphasize the use of online education, student-centered, problem-based learning, and complex problem-solving.

Recently, as a STEM Instructor, I got involved with my students in a STEM project called "The Contribution of Technology to the Protection of our Health".  This project concerns the quality of life of residents of large cities where the most common type of living is an apartment within a large apartment. In this project, we examined the nuisance factors of an apartment and more specifically noise pollution and the harmful factors of the gaseous environment of the apartment such as carbon monoxide (CO), smoke, and dust. A miniaturized model of an apartment was constructed and sound detection sensors as well as a carbon monoxide detection sensor were installed within it. The STEM Technology used was an Arduino microcontroller, a connection board with resistors, LEDs, a data/measurement display, etc. Students using STEM technology suggested ways to this environmental problem. This project was transdisciplinary because it involved physics, technology, mathematics, engineering, and art and promoted the four Cs of 21st-century skills: critical thinking, creativity, collaboration, and communication. The goal of this project is to improve the quality of life of people living in modern homes and to protect their psychological and physical health.

Furthermore, as a STEM instructor at the Greek Ministry of Education, I launched a STEAM project which is called "SOS! We are changing the earth’s climate!" and it is addressed to primary school students because at this age students should be inculcated the core values concerning environment and service learning. The project is based on five SDGs, it combines Environmental education, STEM education, and Arts and it aims to raise children's and students’ awareness of climate change. Throughout this project, students will have the chance to understand that there are natural and anthropogenic factors that affect climate, to be aware of human interventions, realize how important it is to find solutions, get involved in authentic problem-solving processes, develop their critical thinking, and cultivate their creativity through STEAM activities. Students are encouraged to get involved in various experiments to simulate weather phenomena, take measurements of temperature, pressure, humidity, and other weather parameters, build models of meteorological stations, plant trees, etc. Through all these activities, students will strengthen their ecological consciousness and responsibility.

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