What is the future of STEM education in the U.S.? | Opensource.com

What is the future of STEM education in the U.S.?

Posted 19 Jul 2011 by 

Lori Mehen (Red Hat)
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According to recent international comparisons, the US is ranked 35th in math education and 29th in science education worldwide. This downward trend is not a new revelation. Over the past several decades we've seen the quality of public primary and secondary education decline continuously due in no small part to an overall lack of financial and societal support.

There is an alarming shortage of qualified teachers for science, technology, engineering, and math (STEM) education. And with recent rampant teacher layoffs, not surprisingly, unqualified teachers are being asked to teach these subjects. Roughly 30% of chemistry and physics teachers in public high schools did not major in these fields and have not earned a certificate to teach those subjects according to a new survey released by the National Center for Education Statistics (NCES). Tom Luce, CEO of the National Math and Science Initiative (NMSI) and a former assistant secretary at the U.S. Department of Education, said in a recent article on usnews.com, “the problem is most prevalent in middle school, where more than two-thirds of math teachers aren't qualified to teach the subject, a 2007 report by the National Academies shows. Only 1 in 10 middle school physical science teachers have a degree or certification in the subject, according to the same report.”

It's not only the formal education system that is failing us in this respect. Last week, my husband took my four-year-old son Connor to the The James S. McDonnell Space Hangar at the Udvar-Hazy Center in Virginia, where they saw the retired space shuttle Enterprise. Connor was in awe of the whole experience and asked, “Are astronauts the heroes of the world?” My immediate thought was, Astronauts were once the heroes of the world, as I reflected on the final space shuttle launch and realized that this young potential future engineer has just lost an enormous point of inspiration.

In hopes of resurrecting some inspiration for for our potential future American scientists, technologists, engineers and mathematicians, the nonprofit Carnegie Corporation of New York along with numerous other organizations have collaborated to form 100kin10, a coalition that will focus on three challenges of improving STEM education:

1. Increasing the supply of qualified teachers
2. Keeping those teachers in the classroom with incentive programs for top performers
3. Getting the public to realize that STEM education is an important issue

Carnegie's Talia Milgrom-Elcott says the coalition hopes to mimic the transparency and openness of the open source environment. Carnegie is not creating a new infrastructure or trying to train teachers on its own—it's merely connecting organizations that are already working on the problem. She wants these organizations to start sharing what works.

Many groups are jumping in to this collaborative. Changemakers, for one, is running a STEM education contest, and Google and ExxonMobil are among the companies sponsoring. The parameters are broad—entries are public, and anyone who has an idea of how to innovate STEM learning methods or improve teaching can enter.

My husband is a physics professor at Duke University. He and I frequently talk about the need to move away from the teacher-centered, passive-student pedagogy of the large lecture halls, which are by design not conducive to collaborative learning. Perhaps its a complete redesign of the classroom. That's a lot to ask, so my husband proposes possible tactics despite this learning environment to engage students better through team-based learning, collaboration, peer interaction and mentoring. Perhaps one day soon students can experience comfort and physical ease of communication within teams, but we can't wait for that day. That's something we'll propose to help STEM education.

What's your contribution?

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16 Comments

sscguide

The education revolution is just began in India, even though there are lots of regulatory hurdles still, private companies are optimistic about the opportunities in the sector and continue to invest in the so-called education revolution, in India. The educational market is huge, is estimated to be around US$40 billion, does the educational revolution is here to stay.
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Best in the world

I must say that It might be true that US students lack in STEM education compare to India. I saw a video that clarify that US importing different material from all over the world but the best engineers from India. Indian Institute of Technology (IIT) creates Shining Diamonds in the institutes. There is no competition in STEM education with Indian students.

Even US government is scared that may be in future all the technical positions will be occupied by Indians.

I think US education system should study IIT education system to improve the STEM education at different level in US.

For now, a very Happy new year !!!

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Tanvi

It’s hard to find knowledgeable people on this topic, but you sound like you know what you’re talking about!
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Grumpy Young Man

STEM programs? To what end? Science, technology, engineering, and math are all tied to industries which produce *things*: cars, buildings, computers, heck, even toys. All of those jobs have left the US, or are leaving. Here we are, stuck with a service based economy, with minimal education required for most jobs, and fewer and fewer good paying jobs to pay for these services. No need for STEM programs, as in the near future, people with those skills won't be able to find a job anyway, and if they do, it won't pay much more than service industry job, due to an abundance of candidates.

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Dan Ryan

Grumpy,
While there is no doubt that STEM plays a role in the "thing" economy, STEM also plays a much larger role in the IT, Life Science and Nanotechnology world. There is still a great deal of advanced manufacturing in the USA, but much of the "thing" work you described was not as STEM related as it was low-skill work.

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Unidentified

"Due in no small part to an overall lack of financial and societal support"

Uh.. USA spend more per student than any country in the world after (Demark,Switzerland,Austria).. And we are 35th place!!! ... (Source http://www.dailyplunge.com/tag/per-pupil-spending-by-country/ )

US Department of Education rules (focus on social engineering vs. basic skills) and a culture which glorifies rap thugs, baby-mommas, free-loading-living-of-the-government-lifestyle and yes maybe a few bad union protected tenured teachers are the problem.
THROWING more TAXPAYER money and government/regulations is not the answer. Separate the kids into groups… prep ‘em for College, the trades, the factory, or the fields/manual labor… but make sure all groups can balance a checkbook so they don’t buy houses they can’t afford or run up $30,000 in dept on credit cards.More money and special teaching techniques/plans are not going turn someone with a mule intellect or "free loading abition" into a brain surgeon…

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CowboyBob

Hi... I run a 4-H Mindstorms Robotics program for middle schools. (I'm a volunteer). I'm always asking myself "why isn't this offered as part of the regular curriculum?". It involves project-based learning, compelling material, hands-on opportunities. My answer is that it is very labor intensive to prepare and and deliver; I probably invest 5-10 hours in preparation for each hour of the program delivery. There needs to be a fairly radical revamping of priorities, so that STEM subjects are taught with the same intensity and dedication as, say, team sports. (i.e. parent participation and fundraising, daily multi-hour practice). Wow, wouldn't that be a concept?

As for lack of jobs cited in a previous posting.... As a former outreach chair for our state-wide software developers' association, this is absolutely not the case, our member companies are *begging* for competent software developers to slot into their $60,000 / year jobs. But the jobs do require at least a bachelor's-level technical education. Some of this could be delivered via an apprenticeship / internship type of program, concurrent with high school.

Yes, there has been some hollowing out in U.S. manufacturing due to outsourcing, there is still a crying need for engineers and scientists in bioscience, software development, and renewable energy to name just a few areas. I think it is a shame that our national priorities now seem to be focused on "cutting taxes", and shutting down the space program, and diminished investment in all kinds of government funded R&D (except of course we've increased funding for killing and "defense"). We used to be capable of working together to accomplish great things as a nation. I hope we will find our way back to that in the very near future.

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Unidentified

The only thing public schools even try to teach is diversity and sexual freedom. STEM is dead in America, and America deserves it. I'm going to India.

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Dan Ryan

I recently blogged about this same topic and I try to find ways to incorporate STEM into much of my work.

I applaud your willingness to wave the STEM banner and I hope you will keep this topic in front of your readers.

Dan Ryan
Ryan Search & Consulting
http://ryansc.net

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jNMX
Community Member

"I recently blogged about this same topic and I try to find ways to incorporate STEM into much of my work.

I applaud your willingness to wave the STEM banner and I hope you will keep this topic in front of your readers."

Dear Dan, Recently I read your article about the STEM subjects, and your opinion concerning this "fragile" subject is quite amazing (after my opinion!).

Keep your (good) work up!

Chris
http://www.starbike.com

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Shivam

STEM also plays a much larger role in the IT, Life Science and Nanotechnology world. There is still a great deal of advanced manufacturing in the USA, but still a crying need for engineers and scientists in bioscience, software development, and renewable energy to name just a few areas. I think it is a shame that our national priorities now seem to be focused on "cutting taxes", and shutting down the space program, and diminished investment in all kinds of government funded R&D (except of course we've increased funding for killing and "defense"). ra one songs download|Rascals hindi movie|mausam 2011 songs|chamak challo akon|teri meri song

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IQBAL KHAN

Knowledge is endless weather we are on rite path or wrong.But we can confine our self towards the rite path only when the base of our educational system is on math or mathematical.

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Unidentified

For the record: I am an American born student majoring in STEM at an American university (undecided between engineering and applied mathematics). I think the comment about "India's educational revolution is here to stay" is right on; with a 5 on the Calculus BC exam, I'm about as far ahead in math as I can possibly be, and I would not have passed the Indian CBSE exam as a senior in high school (although now, as a college freshman, I could pass it. The only thing I lacked was linear algebra and a bit of differential equations). I would, however, like to see what an Indian senior would do with the Calculus BC test I passed as a junior and could have aced as a senior (the 5, while the highest score, does not mean "perfect"). It requires more creativity than the CBSE.

Actually, there are LOTS of American college students majoring in STEM. Many more qualified students, in fact, than will get jobs. This is less of a problem for engineers, but it's still a problem due to people like Indian workers knowing just as much and costing less (see my comments above and note that the cost of living in India is much lower than in the US overall).

I was lucky because my school offered AP chemistry, physics, calculus, and several other good courses. There is a lot of opportunity for most American students in nicer, suburb-area public schools. Inner-city schools are a different story. But remember that that's the same story repeated in any other country, including China, India, and Japan. I think a big difference is that many Asian parents sacrifice so much for their children's education that the children are dang well not going to screw up, whereas many American parents don't care so much. But many American kids *do* care a lot, and I think we forget that when we average scores of all American high-schoolers.

There is just not much room for that many scientific researchers anywhere. They form part of an academic elite that will never comprise a significant percentage of the general population. Scientific research is being done either at universities or government labs, and the universities are dominating more and more. This is good for undergraduate and graduate students who want research experience and a temporary job, and bad for anyone who wants a long-term career in research. You either have to be a professor or get very lucky and land a job with the government. Government grants are behind almost all scientific research not being done in the R&D labs of the huge private companies which can afford such things.

So regardless of the major I choose right now I will probably end up in engineering, because that's where the money is, unless you are brilliant enough to become a top professor and scholar (the two are de facto synonyms in today's society).

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Amit darpan

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Sunil Upadyaye

I've read your stuff before and youre just too awesome. I love what youve got here, love what youre saying and the way you say it. You make it entertaining and you still manage to keep it smart.
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IQBAL KHAN

Good teachers are born, like a good musician or good artist but beside this teachers training programs are necessary to make a teacher technically sound and skillful towards the teaching approach because teachers are the key factors for the successful implementation of any curriculum.

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Lori Mehen is an Account Manager in Brand Communications + Design at Red Hat. She grew up in Los Angeles, CA and now resides in Durham, NC with her husband and three kids. Lori enjoys water skiing, cooking and car racing.

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