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A short while ago Wonder Workshop conducted some research to discover how much parents knew about STEM subjects: science, technology, engineering and mathematics. These are the things that are now considered to make up the backbone of a comprehensive education. STEM is at the forefront of educational systems globally, and a learning priority of the British Government, and yet when asked if they knew what the acronym stood for, 60% of parents drew a blank.
Now, this isn’t necessarily a terrible thing; there are so many acronyms out there that we can’t all be expected to know what they all mean, but that’s not the only problem revealed. Although, when enlightened on the meaning of STEM, more than two thirds (68%) of parents stated that proficiency in tech is as necessary a life skill as budgeting or learning to cook, when it came down to the crunch 63.7% of parents said that they’d rather their kids learned to speak a new language, than learned to code.
What most people outside of the educational field don’t understand, is that learning to code is actually learning a new language in its own right. Only, unlike French or German, or increasingly, Spanish or Japanese, it can be applied to an absolutely enormous array of careers.
Whether you’re aware of it or not, coding is responsible for the smooth running of most aspects of our lives these days, from the phones we use to the products we buy, making it one of the most highly desired qualifications of the moment, and it’s anticipated to be in even greater demand in the years to come. Even if kids don’t go onto a career that uses coding, the discipline teaches problem solving and logic, both of which are vital skills which can be carried across to help with the acquisition of other subjects, including those under the STEM umbrella.
It’s possible that one of the reasons that parents have been slow to get behind the STEM movement is because they don’t fully understand it themselves. While two thirds (68.7%) of parents of children aged 6 to 12 said that their children were taught technology or coding at school, only just over half (57.6%) agreed that they should extend this learning experience by encouraging their kids to play with STEM toys at home. Tellingly, 42% said that their kids have STEM toys but they (the parents) sometimes don’t understand how to use them. Also tellingly, 75% of parents thought that children’s screen or computer time should be limited.
While parents can’t be expected to keep up with everything that their children are studying, STEM subjects are becoming increasingly important in international educational systems, so perhaps now is the time for parents to start getting on board with the tech movement. We all want to do the best by our kids, and getting to grips with learning priorities is a good place to start.
Christopher Cederskog is Managing Director Europe of Wonder Workshop
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