STEM Education is Necessary for Growth

By Frank-Jürgen Richter

March 25, 2024

In the ever-evolving landscape of global development, the significance of STEM (Science, Technology, Engineering, and Mathematics) education cannot be understated. As countries like China and Vietnam stride into their digital ages, the balance in education becomes crucial for nurturing wholesome societies that are not only technologically advanced but also socially and ethically responsible.

STEM education forms the bedrock of innovation and progress, providing individuals with the skills and knowledge necessary to navigate the complexities of the modern world. With rapid advancements in technology, the demand for STEM professionals is on the rise, driving economic growth and competitiveness on a global scale. Therefore, investing in STEM education is imperative for nations aiming to stay at the forefront of innovation and development.

The Chinese government recognizes the value of human capital as a crucial element of its “comprehensive national power”. Over the past 20 years, it has aimed to enhance the nation’s educational capabilities through significant state funding. For instance, between 2003 and 2007, the government initiated over 1,300 new PhD programs at numerous institutions that had not previously offered such programs. This led to a more than twofold increase in the annual number of STEM PhD graduates in China, during that period. By 2025, it is anticipated that China will produce over 77,000 STEM PhD graduates each year, surpassing the US.

In 2023, China filed a staggering 5.4 million patents, out of which 3.8 million were granted. This highlights the considerable amount of innovation originating from the country, which plays a pivotal role in its economic advancement.

However, while emphasizing STEM education is essential, maintaining a balance with other disciplines is equally crucial for fostering well-rounded individuals. A holistic education system should also prioritize the humanities, arts, and social sciences to cultivate critical thinking, creativity, empathy, and cultural understanding. By integrating diverse disciplines into the educational curriculum, societies can nurture individuals who possess not only technical prowess but also the ability to think critically, communicate effectively, and collaborate across various domains.

Balanced Growth

As China and Vietnam transition into the digital era, maintaining a balanced education system is crucial for fostering a well-rounded society.

This is one of the dialogue sessions being discussed in the upcoming Horasis China Meeting, scheduled for 14th to 15th April 2024 in Binh Duong, Vietnam. With this meeting, Horasis aims to present a systemic view of factors that can dictate China’s economic success in the future.

Governments should promote digital literacy among all citizens. This includes understanding how to use digital tools, safeguarding online privacy and discerning reliable information from misinformation on the internet. 

Encouraging lifelong learning should become imperative as that will ensure that existing and new workforce are well-equipped to adapt to new technologies and job market requirements. Soft skills such as critical thinking, creativity and emotional intelligence should also be encouraged to foster a more empathetic society.

Lastly, governments should ensure that educational opportunities, particularly in digital and STEM fields, are accessible to all, regardless of their socio-economic background. This can help prevent divides and promote a more inclusive society.

Accountability Mechanisms

As China and Vietnam embrace the era of robotization and AI, it is imperative to approach these technological advancements with caution and critical inquiry. While automation and AI offer numerous benefits, including increased efficiency, productivity, and convenience, they also pose significant ethical and socio-economic challenges.

Policymakers must proactively address the potential consequences of automation by investing in workforce training, reskilling and upskilling programs to ensure that individuals are equipped with the skills needed for the jobs of the future.

It is essential to establish robust regulatory frameworks and ethical guidelines to govern the development and deployment of AI and robotics, ensuring that they align with societal values and respect human rights.

Perhaps a great learning example of holding technology giants responsible would be the recent US congressional hearing of CEOs from Meta, X, TikTok, Snap and Discord. This hearing was held due to alleged online harms on young users of social media. Looking at parents whose children died due to online sexual exploitation or harassment via social media platforms, Meta CEO, Mark Zuckerberg said, “I’m sorry for everything you have all been through. No one should go through the things that your families have suffered and this is why we invest so much and we are going to continue doing industry-wide efforts to make sure no one has to go through the things your families have had to suffer.”

Ultimately, the pursuit of a wholesome society in the digital age necessitates a multidimensional approach that transcends narrow disciplinary boundaries. By fostering a balanced education system that integrates STEM with the humanities, arts, and social sciences, societies can cultivate individuals who are not only proficient in technology but also possess the critical thinking, creativity, and ethical discernment needed to navigate an increasingly complex world. Moreover, by addressing the ethical, social, and economic implications of automation and AI with foresight and responsibility, nations like China and Vietnam can harness the transformative power of technology to create a more equitable, inclusive, and sustainable future for all.

Photo Caption: STEM education forms the bedrock of innovation and progress for societies.