STEM Not STEAM Education: Not Only Important For The Arts, But Also Essential For Tech.
Fashion Roundtable have since our inception supported the STEM to STEAM campaign and the work of the National Society for Education in Art and Design (NSEAD), who together with Sharon Hodgson MP, Chair of the All Party Parliamentary Group for Art, Craft and Design In Education, have used their Parliamentary platform to highlight the grave errors of the UK state education's Ebacc implementation, where Science, Technology, Engineering and Maths (STEM) have been pushed with a national curriculum where Art (STEM + Art = STEAM) is not as readily included. As a result, art and design GCSE completions have fallen to the lowest level this century.
Sophie Leach NSEAD's Assistant General Secretary spoke at our event January on the sharp fall in arts education said: "Of the key stage 4 respondents, who had seen a reduction in time for art, 93% reported that the Ebacc had reduced opportunities for their students to select the subject. We also found sector differences: for example: 82% of teachers in the independent sector said their schools did support the principle that ‘every examination group engage with artworks first hand’. This contrasted with a lowly 36% of respondents from free schools. Given awarding bodies recommend gallery, museum or site visits in their specifications, we know the GCSE playing field is far from level."
This issue has been recently raised not only by arts educators, but also by Eric Berridge chief executive of Bluewolf, writing for City AM this week of the consequences of STEM education risking tech business growth: "This is a mistake for our future workforce, because it denies students the opportunity to develop their self-expression, imagination, and creativity. Without fostering these abilities, how can we continue to innovate and move forward? The arts teach us to challenge, persuade, and argue. They give us our language through which we convey our emotions and thoughts. While STEM skills are necessary, the arts reinforce human-centred thinking that empowers businesses to sympathise with their customers in order to drive growth. Today’s technologies are incredibly intuitive. Whole business processes can be built without writing code, and with machine learning iterating improvements, the human role in system building is becoming less essential. Instead, the imperative skills are those that help us to collaborate effectively. Envisioning the product and its use requires real world experience, understanding the client, and being able to think creatively – but the stereotypical technologist often struggles to understand customer issues."
With UK tech businesses are growing 2X faster than non digital businesses according to TechNation, to not take notice of the numerous and diverse needs to grow that business in a market where a unique USP is a key indicator of success seems not only counter-initiative, it is also clearly bad for businesses, including our UK fashion industry which leads in global FashTech innovations, with companies such as Farfetch, Matchesfashion and Net-A-Porter headquartered in London. Especially vital in a post-Brexit landscape where immigration has played a huge factor in political decision making. If we do not have the domicile talent, how can we hope to shape the global industry of the future?