The DeHavilland Blog

Tuesday, November 15, 2005

Singapore luring US biomed researchers

NASSMC highlighted two recent articles that draw a stark contrast. The first was an all-too-common story of US educational shortcomings: according to Julie Rankin, who runs science education for the New York City Department of Education, science education in NYC deserves a failing grade, and cannot even provide data on progress at this point (article in the New York Times here).

From the article:

Council members said that the school system suffered from a lack of
qualified science teachers, laboratory space and classroom time to spend on
science, and that the results were lackluster test scores in the low grades and
high failure rates for high school students on the science Regents exams.

In addition, they said, the science curriculum is uneven and the
department has very little knowledge of what actually happens in individual
schools regarding science, a claim that education officials at the hearing did
not dispute.

Contrast that with an article that came out in the Chronicle for Higher Education, synopsized here under the title "Singapore luring US biomed researchers" by NASSMC:

News Brief #3342 Category: Role of Education in Business
TITLE: "Singapore's Regeneration"

Singapore's government is using top-notch research facilities and
blank-check budgets to lure leading biomedical researchers to their
universities. Last year, the country opened a $300-million science complex, an
investment the government hopes will eventually pay off by making Singapore a
biomedical powerhouse.

"They have decided to make biomedical science work," said Alan Coleman, a
researcher who worked on the team that cloned Dolly the sheep, "and they'll do
what is necessary to make it happen."

The government recently committed to spending $7 billion on biotechnology
over the next five years, on top of the $4 billion they spent between 2000 and

The drawbacks are Singapore's lack of political freedom and its stiff
penalties for questioning official authority, abuses which were recently cited
in a U.S. State Department report on human rights. But some scientists are
willing to make that tradeoff in return for financial stability. Many worry that
stem-cell research in particular has become too much of a political football in
the United States.

"Unlike in the United States, 'embryonic stem cells' are not dirty words
here," says Ariff Bongso, director of in vitro fertilization and andrology at
the National University of Singapore.

SOURCE: Chronicle of Higher Education, 11 November 2005 (p. A42)
The NASSMC Briefing Service (NBS) is supported in part by the International
Technology Education Association and Triangle Coalition for Science and
Technology Education. Briefs reflect only the opinions, findings, conclusions,
or recommendations expressed in the source articles. Click
to SUBSCRIBE, COMMENT, or FIND archived NBS briefs. Click
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in unmodified form, including header and footer.

I understand that this isn't apples to apples, but there's clearly something to be said for a horrendous (Julie Rankin's word, not mine) failure in science education in the country's largest school district versus an investment in science that is great enough to start luring US scientists overseas.

Why has our government abandoned science? Do politicians and their constituents (which is really the root cause in a representative government) not see the writing on the wall?


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