With economic shocks and global recessions like COVID-19, unemployment and deregulation, we have been apprised of the pressing need to revitalise funding and education in STEM (Science, Technology, Engineering, and Math).
Renewing our focus on STEM is an unobjectionable worthwhile endeavour as science and technology are key drivers of our world economy.
But as a researcher, I am of the firm belief that STEM is missing a key component – one that is equally deserved of renewed attention, enthusiasm and funding. That component is the arts.
On that note, I advocate that STEM be remodeled to STEAM. Though many see art and science as somewhat at odds, the fact is that they have long existed and developed collaboratively.
IN FACT, IT IS THE ARTS THAT GAVE BIRTH TO THE SCIENCES. This synergy was embodied in great thinkers like the legendary Leonardo Da Vinci and the renowned Chinese polymath Su Song.
Recent research indicates that STEAM is the optimum approach to positively impacting student achievement and teacher efficacy.
In a 2016 study, researchers investigated the impact of STEAM lessons on physical science learning in grades 3 to 5 in high-poverty elementary schools in an urban district. Findings indicated that students who received just nine hours of STEAM instruction made improvements in their science achievement (Brouillette, L., & Graham, N. J.).
Another study from 2014 shows that connecting STEAM and literacy can positively impact cognitive development, increase literacy and math skills, and help students reflect meaningfully on their work and that of their peers (Cunnington, Marisol, Andrea Kantrowitz, Susanne Harnett, and Aline Hill-Ries.).
This is further supported by a study on the relationship between #theater arts and student literacy and mathematics achievement from 2014.
“Results showed that students whose language arts curricula were infused with theater arts often outperformed their control group counterparts, who received no arts integration, in both math and language arts” (Inoa, R., Weltsek, G., & Tabone, C.).
As a developing nation, we continue to put a premium on science and jettison what is the surefire to Ghana’s socio-economic and political development. Since independence, we have produced more science students in Ghana and yet, we haven’t witnessed any major scientific invention or technological breakthroughs, either from the students in particular or the schools in general.
On the other hand, the arts (literary, performing, visual, etc.) though unregulated in the country, have employed more and continue to employ more people than the sciences.
The arts and sciences are avatars of human creativity. Undoubtedly, ICT (software application, engineering) is a major component of the Cultural and Creative Industries (CCI) as promulgated by UNESCO.
As we continue to project STEM as a nation, we should equally project the arts with the same strength and “bravado”.
Because the simultaneous blend of arts and science will be akin to the perfect concoction that can make the country economically robust. In the advanced countries, and some parts of Africa (Nigeria, South Africa, Kenya, Tanzania, etc.) the cultural/art industries employ more people than the sciences.
Like in Europe and USA, ART (cultural & creative industry) is the only SAVIOUR to Ghana’s economic destabilisation.
By: Emmanuel Jewel Preprah Mensah (Creative Arts Practitioner, Researcher & Theatre for Development Specialist).