The Difference that One Letter Makes

Everywhere we turn to today, technology displays itself in a greatly impactful manner. It has become one of the most integral parts of our lives. However, since the time tech started slowly creeping into our lives, there is one debate that is yet to be put to rest. It is the difference between STEM and STEAM — which is the better format of learning. The difference that one letter makes is inarguably huge. However, before delving into that discussion, it is very important to understand what these terms stand for and signify.

What is STEM?

STEM stands for Science, Technology, Engineering, and Mathematics, and can be traced back to being adopted as a way of learning by Dr Judith Ramaley. The STEM-based curriculum focuses on teaching students exclusively in the four disciplines mentioned above in an interdisciplinary and applied approach. It integrates the four different subjects into a cohesive learning paradigm based on real-world applications. STEM-based learning programs believe that this approaching of learning sows the seeds of innovation, flexibility, and critical thinking. All of this provides any country with a future workforce that has a tremendous advantage in the fields of scientific and technological advancements. The STEM-specific disciplines are the hard sciences, engineering, economics, agricultural sciences, and other behavioural sciences.

What is STEAM?

The term STEAM stands for all the things STEM represents with the addition of the field of Arts to the mix. The STEAM-based curriculum integrates the disciplines of humanities, language arts, dance, drama, music, visual arts, and new media along with the science-based subjects covered by STEM. STEAM-based learning is believed to build a workforce that has the ability to take thoughtful and measured risks, engage in experiential learning, persist in problem-solving, embrace collaboration, and work through the creative process. It uses the pure-science disciplines as access points to build and direct curiosity, communication, and effective critical thinking.


Educators all across the world have slowly but surely been moving from STEM to STEAM over the past few years. STEM, by itself, fails to arm the children with capabilities that have been deemed as crucial needs for the present and future workforce. Furthermore, STEAM prepares the generations of today for the important 22nd — century skills — connection, care, community, and culture.

With technology guiding us through life, it is very obvious that all the concepts brought up by STEM are extremely crucial. However, the difference that one letter makes in STEAM can’t be ignored, either. With STEAM, the stringent demarcations that have been put into play in the field of education can finally be demolished. There won’t, anymore, be the killing of creativity at the altar of studying science. This will change the way we see STEM problems and create a new way of thinking that is engaging, multifaceted and inclusive, with a diversity of representation and thought.

Atreyee Chakraborty

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