Most students determine in elementary school their propensity for math and science, which often is not nurtured by their families for lack of understanding. We also see at this time in their life that many students are building their esteem and if they believe they are not good or effective at something, the chances of them pursuing subject area or task beyond the initial effort is very unlikely. Consequently, when we look around in the workforce, we see that while over half of the population is made up of minorities and women, far less than half are in aviation related career fields. While this is not true for Flight Attendants, the remainder of the aviation community, certainly does not reflect a valid picture of society. This is an issue that begins far earlier than once believed.
Recent studies have shown the self-efficacy of students’ in Aviation and STEM related subjects begin to self-diagnose themselves as not effective in those subject and self-eliminate as early as 3rdGrade. This is far more prevalent in under-represented groups. By the time most of these students reach the age of 12, they have completely removed themselves from aviation, science and engineering pathways.
Children naturally have a rare combination of both imagination and curiosity. Many are seen running through playgrounds with their arms out to the side like airplanes, and even parents at a very young age, will expose their children to some form of aviation by mimicking the motions and actions of an airplane with the child as the airplane. We must encourage them to continue to support this curiosity and pursue that learning. Providing the under-represented with learning opportunities as early as Kindergarten, can help students build an interest in aviation and a confidence that will have a lasting impact. However, this experience must be relative to the students’ background.
To show underrepresented groups ESTEAM (Education, Science, Technology, Engineering, Aviation and Mathematics) is for them, school systems and programs should understand and value each students’ prior experience and promote their potential place in the future workforce of aviation. Providing students with early access to aviation-based experiences, gives them the ability to have a successful career based on having the greatest number of opportunities with the highest return on investment regardless of the choice they ultimately elect to pursue.
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