Despite the prominence that STEM seems to be gaining publicly, there is still a ways to go to fulfill the market needs of professionals in the science, technology, engineering, and mathematics fields, says Joseph Piro, an associate professor at Long Island University.
Part of the problem is that STEM education has transformed into a discipline in which students are increasingly motivated to learn only to pass a test—not to gain a better understanding, notes Deborah Myers, executive vice president and general manager of the Science Channel.
The solution to this issue, oddly, could be the arts.
"You've got to find a creative way to rally the imagination and get students excited about science and math and engineering," she says.
This lack of excitement around STEM education for students is causing many to tune out classroom discussions, but they are tuning in to play video games outside of the classroom, says Allyson Peerman, president of the AMD Foundation. In fact, some experts predict the average child who regularly plays video games will accumulate roughly 10,000 hours of game play by age 21.
Some media companies are finding ways to combine entertainment and gaming to promote STEM education. Science Channel, for example, broadcasts a show called Head Rush, which promotes STEM components and features a host who performs hands-on experiments. To expand the reach of the show, students can access online trivia games to fully understand the information they're consuming, says Myers.
While arts and entertainment may not seem like obvious complements to STEM, the discipline and craft that go into these subjects are very similar, notes Peerman.
"From an engineering point of view, art is part of the process of imagining what a product is going to look like," she says. "Steve Jobs didn't just create great technology … but great pieces [of art] as well."
With a marketplace starving for more professionals skilled in the areas of science and mathematics, a growing trend may be to decrease the importance of an arts education—a mistake, notes Myers.
"I want to see a balanced child," she says. "In science you're taught to learn a certain way, but in the arts, you're also taught to learn a certain way. The importance of all of them together is key to turning out well-rounded kids."