A child's learning benefits best from an integrated approach, much like their emotional, nutritional, and other developmental needs.
Exclude any aspect, and you may neglect to embrace the future potential of a budding builder, doctor, vet, or IT wizard. Some children display an aptitude for the STEM areas of study early in their academic careers. For others, an interest in science, technology, engineering, or mathematics, emerges in later schooling stages, and in others, not at all.
In any case, the golden rule remains the same; systems fail when we do not honor the interconnectedness of things. Lose language, and you lose the oxygen that enables all things to breathe and speak their truth. Lose learning to read, and you undermine the ability to engage in the IBL, or inquiry-based learning, that STEM subjects are rooted in. A recent study into the highly specialized STEM-strong field of biomedicine found strong and moderate correlations between students' perceptions of the development of research skills and creativity and the open-IBL approach. Let's examine the ways in which English and communication skills are inextricably bound to STEM success.
Keeping the Pace
Getting a child interested in science may be the easy part of the equation, thanks to a plethora of related resources and activities, such as books, games, media, and interactive museum exhibits. Assisting them to thrive in STEM without adequate English language skills is where issues arise.
A recent report highlights the challenges that affect student learning opportunities in STEM, where the school curriculum becomes negatively affected by inconsistent policies in relation to English language learning.
One aspect is the varying degree of school populations for whom English is a second language. These children require early intensive intervention in order to strengthen their language skills and enable them to cope with studying in other areas such as STEM.
Another evolving challenge is that both language and STEM concepts are constantly evolving. Words change fashion and meaning, and scientific principles get revised. As neither field is static, they rely on the other to evolve further.
Text and Context
All STEM concepts, ideas, and innovations are ultimately expressed through language. A mathematical equation, for example, will always at some point apply to a real-world scenario and will require a narrative to explain it.
Children must learn to read in order to apply the reading to learning. Along with the acquisition of essential vocabulary, grammar, and written expression skills, they also need to develop the nuanced skills that English language learning provides.
As a child progresses in their STEM learning and the concepts and ideas increase in complexity, so does the language used to express them. Educational texts, research studies, and other learning resources require advanced English language skills to be comprehended. No STEM student can thrive without the skills to understand, form, and express cogent and persuasive arguments.
Without accurate and improved English language skills, a STEM student can neither interpret the evidence available nor interpolate their ideas onto the subject. To clearly hear the ideas of future STEM success stories, we need first to nurture the words used to voice them.