Failure is usually defined as a lack of success. Not being able to succeed in a certain venture or attempt at something. Unfortunately, failure comes with a lot of negative connotations, so much so, that we don’t want it anywhere in our lives. But, is this reasonable?
Many self-help books talk about failure, but most importantly, the positive side of something as negative as this. Let’s look at the plethora of bumper stickers, motivational posters and inspirational quotes that talk about failure in a positive light. “Failure is the key to success” and “If at first, you don’t succeed, try and try again”. These are very commonly known lines that have been used as encouragement when one has not performed so well. And these are the connotations that should accompany failure. Not those of disheartenment and giving up.
Students in Australia have been dropping out of STEM (Science, Technology, Engineering and Mathematics) subjects for fear of failure. They assume that these subjects are too difficult, and therefore, would rather choose an easier path to score well in examinations. This year saw high-level math enrolments drop to its lowest number in 20 years. A study done on 2000 students from 12-25 years old, saw many of them having very low confidence levels in math and considering engineering a “hard” subject. This was especially so among females. This aversion to STEM subjects due to their perceived difficulty and possible cause of failure is a big reason why students are steering clear of these in schools and for their later careers.
As adults, educators, parents and guardians, as strange as this will sound, we need to be advocates for failure. We need to promote these truisms, that “success taught me nothing, failure taught me everything!”. We have to show the younger generation that failure is essential to becoming successful later in life, and STEM subjects are just an example of all of the hardships that they may encounter, and then eventually thrive from. The more children know that it is okay to fail, the more they will simply want to try. Difficult subjects in school, along with examinations and tests, are just the first hurdles they will have to leap over.
STEMmates courses are designed to teach young learners that failure (or the fear of it) is not something that should stop someone from having a go. Instead, we focus on allowing learners to develop using problem-solving and critical analysis, rather than rote learning. Learners are encouraged to not give up and try again – figuring out complexed assignments through trial and error methods and communicating, both with their teachers and with each other. This also eventually helps them to retain their new knowledge a lot longer and, hopefully, keep them interested in STEM way into their future.