Over my many years in education, I have become accustomed to acronyms. For instance, FIS is an IB PYB-DP school accredited by NEASC under CIE using ACE protocols, a part of ECIS, and one that participates in ISSTs, MUN and, FYI, ISTA and SCIS.*
However, a newer acronym that you have undoubtedly seen “sprouting” throughout FIS is STEM, which stands for Science, Technology, Engineering and Mathematics. You will note that in this issue of FIS World, we are shining a spotlight on STEM subject areas. Our ongoing investment in Accelerators at FIS has had an intentional STEM focus as we have invested in STEM coaches, STEM labs and STEM equipment, including design technology resources, virtual reality platforms and 3D microscopes, just to name a few. As a parent, you have every right to ask the question, “Are these investments of meaningful value? Or are we simply chasing another educational fad?”
Clearly, I believe that strengthening STEM at our school is imperative for our students’ future success. Why? Because although it encompasses four distinct strands of education, it is primarily concerned with one overriding skill: problem solving. From following scientific methods to writing code, to uncovering the value of variables, STEM subjects provide students the single most valuable skill in any industry: working together to find solutions to pressing needs.
The United States’ former Secretary of Education, Richard Riley, may have said it best when describing what a 21st century education should be. He said, “We are currently preparing students for jobs that don’t yet exist…using technologies that haven’t yet been invented…in order to solve problems we don’t even know are problems yet.” Renowned British author and international advisor on education, Sir Ken Robinson, added to this idea of preparing students for the future in saying, “Copernicus, Galileo, and Kepler did not solve an old problem, they asked a new question, and in doing so they changed the whole basis on which the old questions had been framed.”
Does our focus on STEM mean we do not value literature, or the arts, or athletics, or any other subjects outside of the STEM umbrella? Not at all. In fact, our recent investments in facilities like the Upper School’s Da Vinci wing and the Stroth Center are proof of this commitment. These subjects are critical to creating well-rounded individuals who can not only be productive in the workplace, but also appreciate beauty, develop empathy, communicate clearly, and demonstrate a host of other talents. These are the essential skills that make us not only efficient, but more effective; not only rational, but more relational.
FIS is choosing to increase its investment in STEM subjects because they lead to the competencies not only valued by universities and employers, but like skeleton keys, are skills that will open doors leading to new avenues of discovery. We can only be optimistic about our future if we know that the next generation has the skills necessary to create new solutions for our world’s problems – those that are known, and those we have yet to face.
*Each of the acronyms listed in the first paragraph of this post are spelled out here: Frankfurt International School (FIS), International Baccalaureate (IB), Primary Years Programme (PYP), Diploma Programme (DP), New England Association of Schools and Colleges (NEASC), Commission on International Education (CIE), Architecture, Culture, Ecology (ACE), Educational Collaborative for International Schools (ECIS), International Schools Sports Tournament (ISST), Model United Nations (MUN), For Your Information (FYI), International Schools Theatre Association (ISTA) and Sports Council for International Schools (SCIS).