(from the University of Florida)
Science, technology, engineering, and mathematics (STEM) are the center of attention in most U.S. public schools today. The focus on STEM fields was initiated to increase global competitiveness and the project does have its merits. However, it has left the arts (the "A" in STEAM) languishing far off in the periphery. This is quite unfortunate, as art education is known to improve academic performance.
- On average, students who study the arts for 4 years in high school score 98 points higher on the SATs compared to those who study the same for half a year or less.
- Students who took up music appreciation scored 61 points higher on the verbal section and 42 points higher on the math section.
Of the elementary schools with arts, the most common subjects revolve around music at 94% and visual studies at 83%. Only 3% offer dance instruction while 4% provide theater arts.
Training in the arts has been shown to improve creativity and innovation. Students learn to approach issues with a critical mind and a positive attitude towards problem solving. Exposure to the arts enhances communication skills, which are essential tools for collaboration. It develops flexibility and adaptability. The government recognizes these and, indeed, 48 states have adopted standards for art instructions.
However, 51% of art teachers are unhappy about what they see as the decline in art education brought about by the shift in focus. The difficulty in measuring art’s contribution to academic performance has led to its under-appreciation.
STEAM could be an answer.