Live Science: STEM is a curriculum based on the idea of educating students in four specific disciplines — science, technology, engineering and mathematics — in an interdisciplinary and applied approach. Rather than teach the four disciplines as separate and discrete subjects, STEM integrates them into a cohesive learning paradigm based on real-world applications.
Despite the increasing need and high salaries within the STEM related job market, interest in and proficiency among high school students remains lack luster. According to the U.S. Department of Education, only 16 percent of high school students are interested in a STEM career and have proven a proficiency in mathematics.
Pew Research: Policymakers and educators have long puzzled over why more students do not pursue STEM majors in college, even though those who have an undergraduate degree in a STEM field of study earn more than those with other college majors. About half of adults (52%) say the main reason young people don’t pursue STEM degrees is they think these subjects are too hard.
American Affairs Journal: Immigrants accounted for well over 50 percent of the growth in employment in STEM-related fields between 2003 and 2008. In addition, foreign students make up the majority of majors and graduate students in many STEM fields in American universities. In the past 15 years, India and China have outpaced the United States in the number of science and engineering (S&E) bachelor’s degrees conferred. Indeed, these two countries have produced almost half of the total degrees, with India at 25% and China at 22% of the global total. Meanwhile, American S&E bachelor’s degrees comprised only 10% of the global total. U.S. students ranked 38th and 24th out of 71 countries in math and science, respectively.
So somehow we, as Americans, have failed our children by not providing sufficient motivation, education and guidance to empower them (and us) to be competitive. Many of the best, highest paying jobs are STEM related. BLS: There were nearly 8.6 million STEM jobs in May 2015, representing 6.2 percent of U.S. employment. Computer occupations made up nearly 45 percent of STEM employment, and engineers made up an additional 19 percent. Ninety-three out of 100 STEM occupations had wages above the national average.
What can be done? The U.S. Department of Education has outlined some broad based programs along with a number of grant opportunities. The Journal reports that STEM Trends for 2020 should Target Diversity, Rural Teachers and PD (professional development). ReadWrite: Here are just a few key things being done to boost STEM education to ensure that tomorrow’s workers will have the skills they need:
- Programs are taking learning outside the classroom
- Business leaders and educators are building bridges
- Resources help parents and teachers make STEM relatable to their kids
A reoccurring theme in promoting STEM education is “early and often”. NCSL: Research has demonstrated that young children’s minds are very receptive to math and logic and that early mathematics skills are the strongest predictor of future academic achievement. Starting students early in STEM subjects can help to build strong foundations and begin to ameliorate our nation’s low scores in these areas.
You might want to check out The Ultimate STEM Guide for Kids: 239 Cool Sites About Science, Technology, Engineering and Math. If you’re looking for an organization to support, Forbes lists Five Nonprofits Driving A Revolution In STEM Education.