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STEM VS. STEAM: Does Arts Education Really Benefit Schools?

Learn more about a study funded by the National Endowment for the Arts!

STEM VS. STEAM: Does Arts Education Really Benefit Schools?

STEM represents science, technology, engineering, and mathematics. STEAM represents the arts in addition to STEM. Different art forms may include drama, dance, music, visual arts, design and humanities. A key difference between STEM and STEAM is STEM directly focuses on scientific concepts. While STEAM takes those same scientific concepts and adds the ability to study them through problem-based learning methods found in the creative process.

STEM vs. STEAM: Which is a better focus for schools?

While both STEM and STEAM have differences, there is an opportunity for growth across all occupations in the science, technology, engineering, and mathematics fields. It is important for students to be able to choose a curriculum that fits their individual needs, skills, goals and interests. Therefore it is important for students to have access within their schools.

A study funded by the National Endowment for the Arts tracked participants from their sophomore year of high school year to their mid-20s to see the results of arts education. The study found that a knowledge and appreciation for the arts from a STEAM education approach resulted in a more accurate pathway to college. The key findings from the study confirmed that arts students were:

-Arts students applied to slightly more colleges, on average, than did non-arts students

-Arts students and non-arts students did not differ in terms of the selectivity of the colleges to which they applied at or at which they were admitted.

-Arts students were 29% more likely to apply to a postsecondary institution than were non-arts students.

-Arts students were 21% more likely than non-arts students to have attended a postsecondary institution two years past high school graduation.

-Arts students were just as likely to receive scholarships as their non-arts peers.


In other words, there was no disadvantage for students who elected to pursue an interest in the arts. The debate between STEM vs. STEAM has brought into focus the importance of studying the arts. With a STEAM education, students can discover a wider range of interests; some students might naturally excel in science and technology, and others may enjoy discovering their artistic side. Parents and schools should recognize the value of encouraging their children to develop their own unique talents.



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