The DeHavilland Blog

Monday, February 20, 2006

Is there a math/science crisis?

Is there a crisis in STEM (science, technology, engineering, and math) education in this country? Not according to parents and students. In a recent survey by Public Agenda, parents' concern about math and science achievement has actually declined since the mid-90s, and today only 32% of surveyed parents feel that schools should be teaching their children a lot more math and science. Students share that lack of concern, with only a quarter stating that a lack of emphasis on math and science is a problem at their school. Complete survey results, guaranteed to make the hair on the back of your neck stand on end, available here.

While this is frightening, and a monumental hurdle in improving both education and American competitiveness, it isn't insurmountable. Over the past 40 years, we've been extremely successful in selling the idea that college is a required step to future success. According to a 1993 NCES
report, there was a dramatic shift in expectations from 1972 to 1992, with only 5.3% of high school seniors in 1992 expecting to attain no more than a high school diploma, compared with 18.9% of 1972 seniors with that expectation. Further, 33.3% of 1992 seniors expected to attend graduate school, compared with 12.6% of 1972 seniors. (Whether these expectations were fulfilled - and other data indicates that they were not - this points to how well we have sold the value of higher education to the country.)

Of course, it's a big job to shift attitudes and expectations across the country, and we're off to a weak start on STEM education. The people most concerned about it - industry groups, trade organizations, business leaders, and the academic community - have been talking amongst themselves, with little to no outreach to the students and parents who ultimately have the greatest stake in this. Let's hope that these folks start to engage the public, illustrating the crisis and clearly explaining the solution, so that we can begin moving the needle of public opinion.


  • yes we are in a crises compared to other countries internationally, like China, Singapore, Japan.

    By Anonymous Anonymous, at 12:02 PM  

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