The Importance of STEM Education in School
Science, technology, engineering, and mathematics - commonly known as STEM - these subjects have been a thorn in the side of U.S. education circles and policy makers as the U.S. has continued to trail behind other developed countries in educating our future generations in these vital areas. According to a recent study from Harvard University's Program on Education Policy and Governance, students in the U.S. scored 25th out of all developed nations in math and science scores on standardized tests. To make matters worse, while the unemployment rate in the U.S. is still high, jobs in the STEM fields still remain open due to a lack of qualified candidates.
It is important that the U.S. take STEM education seriously if our nation is to remain competitive in the world market. The growing technology base of most of our industries demands that we have workers who are proficient in STEM areas, and that starts with educated STEM teachers.
How Are Schools Responding to STEM Educational Goals?
Under the No Child Left Behind Act, a strong emphasis has been placed on STEM classes both in terms of student test results and teacher focuses. In fact, the focus on STEM has caused many schools to cut other programs, such as the arts, to put more class time and student focus on STEM subjects. STEM scholarships have become available to current and future teachers to learn and teach STEM subjects, along with grant funding that is also available to help schools hire more teachers proficient in STEM subjects, retrain teachers to provide STEM education or to increase the quality of their current STEM teachers.
In July, 2012 the Obama administration announced their plan to create a STEM Master Teacher Corps aimed to reward up to 10,000 Master Teachers across the nation for their leadership and experience educating students and peers with $20,000 per year in addition to their current salaries. The administration also announced an immediate funding of $100 million to the Teacher Incentive Fund which helps schools create career ladders for teachers in all fields.
However, even with the enhanced focus on STEM classes, public schools still lag in math and science test scores. More money, time, and effort are still needed to help students begin closing the STEM achievement gap early in their school careers.
Are There Programs to Entice Students – and Teachers – into STEM Careers?
The STEM Education Coalition is a group that collects information about and access to a variety of programs that are designed to help students succeed in STEM educational endeavors. There are a multitude of programs that give students encouragement in their STEM studies, such as the Hands-On Science Partnership, a group that gives support to teachers and students and allows them better access to hands-on activities and experiments in the science field. Many colleges are also now offering financial incentives to students who major in STEM areas, as well. Dozens of STEM scholarships and fellowships are available to students who major in science, technology, engineering and math fields.
The Gender Gap in STEM Fields
There is a marked gap in gender in both STEM education and jobs. According to a report by the U. S. Department of Commerce’s Economics and Statistics Administration, men outnumber women in STEM jobs nearly five to one; even when there are employed women in STEM fields, they tend to take traditionally lower-paying jobs, such as teachers, rather than hard-line STEM employment, such as engineering positions. While STEM teachers are still needed to educate our future generations, this division of employment still creates a daunting pay gap in the STEM fields.
Experts have offered several reasons for the gender gap in STEM studies, citing lack of role models, lack of support at lower grade levels, and fewer family-friendly STEM jobs in the marketplace. However, the reason for the STEM gender gap is not as important as the steps we now take to close this gap. Special attention should be paid to the early years of education in order to begin leveling the playing field for all students.
Further, high school or college females should be encouraged to take STEM classes and to major in STEM fields so that they can earn as much money at their male counterparts and be well-represented in this line of work.
How Can I Encourage My Family and Friends to take the importance of STEM Education Seriously?
It is very important that we send a unified message to our students that the math, science, technology, and engineering fields are very important. This will allow students to see that hard work in these areas can be beneficial to them. Further, we must supply the money, time, and support needed for students to succeed in these difficult fields, which means supporting STEM teachers whenever we can.
If you have children, talk to them about how important their science, technology, engineering and math classes are. Offer to help them with their homework or find tutors who can help them understand basic concepts if they are struggling.
By working together, we can help the U.S. climb to the top in the STEM fields and maintain our position as a leader in education for the rest of the world.
Writing about education is one of Chad’s favorite topics. With 2 young daughters, it’s an important subject that means a lot to him. In addition to writing about schools, he also writes about health care and the changes they are undergoing such as the ICD 10 implementation. He also writes about jobs and education in the medical billing field at MedicalBillingandCodingWorld.com.
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