Monday, June 18, 2007

Assertive STEM Education Training Programs may prove beneficial

Science, Technology, Engineering, and Mathematics education is the foundation for innovation in the developed world. Nations such as the U.S. Japan and those in the European Union have been able to become world economic leaders mainly because of the advances in STEM.

The United States Science and Technology workforce is in danger. We are training fewer and fewer scientists and engineers who are native citizens. STEM education is imperative and we must invest in present and future generations. However, we must not overlook the wealth of human resources available in our nation. This isn’t about perfect representation of all minority or disadvantaged groups. This is about inclusion --inclusion for survival. Presently, our nation’s leaders in politics and science policy are taking this matter seriously and calling attention to the need to:

  • Attract and retain diverse student populations to pursue science and engineering degrees
  • Improve efforts to diversify Science and Technology Workforce in the U.S., and
  • Attract well-trained science and math teachers to public K-12 education.

The United States has always taken pride in the fact that it is the world’s most innovative nation. And the reason for these innovations is due to the fact that it is a free competitive nation of many peoples. Some of the world’s most enduring inventions and improvements were created by what I call least likely sources. Sometimes not being apart of the mainstream or being trained differently gives one a fresh perspective, view point of the world. Diversity is key to innovation.

Equally important is offering a firm quality education to all students. The average student has his or her mind made up by the sophomore year in college. And for many minority students, science is usually written off as a career option by high school. So, getting students interested in science and math in school is important and all of that hinges on making sure they get the best science and math education possible. It pains me to see “less-than-qualified-and-knowledgeable” individuals misrepresenting science. This is not slight on every science teacher, but it is an accurate description of far too many. These teachers are the gate keepers to our nation’s future. These students are our resource pool. The more students that are better prepared, the more likely we are to attract the best, brightest, and highly motivated to tomorrow’s Science and Technology workforce.
So, how can the country produce more and better science and math teachers? Well, combine content and pedagogy. Education majors are heavy of education philosophy, pedagogy, etc, but light on content (A New Twist on Training Teachers). Include more content and at higher levels. Offer incentives to undergraduate and graduate students in science, engineering, and math to become volunteers at struggling schools/school districts. This would create a relationship between the schools and local colleges and universities. It might also be a good idea to encourage K-12 and undergraduate curriculum administrators to work together to create a more contiguous science and math curriculum. It also would give the K-12 students role models and promote civic engagement among the college students. These incentives could include book scholarships, education credits, loan forgiveness, work study, the list can go on.

But overall, I’m just glad that this matter is being addressed and that there are some really great proposals on the table. Read more about this topic here and here.

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