Pushing For a STEM Education

The Senate says we need it. President Obama pushes for it. And even Sesame Street has begun to teach it. The 'it' is STEM, short for 'science, technology, engineering and mathematics.' These subjects, it is believed, are the wave of the future for many jobs. Yet America lags behind other countries when it comes to students studying in these areas. Can the U.S. turn it around?

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STEM education

Education for the Jobs of Tomorrow

Does the future of America lie in the hands of STEM? In some ways, yes. Everything from life-changing medical research to national security relies on skills built through a STEM education. No small wonder, then, that even the commander of U.S. Cyber Command (who is also director of the National Security Agency) is promoting these subjects and pushing colleges and universities to produce more professionals in these fields.

A reauthorization bill for the Elementary and Secondary Education Act (ESEA) recently proposed by the chairman of the Senate education committee calls for an increase in STEM education programs. In part, the aim of the new bill is to provide more instruction and increase student involvement in these areas. Having students more college- and career-ready in STEM areas is also a goal.

Improving Quality

Many experts have long been calling for an improvement to the quality of science and technology education. Math and science curricula in public schools also needs to be improved. Some believe that early childhood education needs to be targeted when it comes to these subjects. To that end, Sesame Street began its recent season with programming geared toward teaching young children about science and technology.

The call is not new: back in the 1950s, America was challenged to improve its science and math education because of competition from the Soviet Union. This challenge was underscored by the Soviets launching the first satellite into orbit in 1957. Today, China, Germany and South Korea are among the nations that graduate far more students with degrees in STEM areas than does the United States.

Promoting STEM

So what can America do to get a focus on STEM? The aforementioned bill outlines some steps the country should take to place STEM at the forefront of its educational goals. These steps include incorporating STEM curricula into more community colleges, which are a growing area of postsecondary education. Through the fall of 2010, community colleges were realizing record-breaking enrollment numbers.

Other ideas include training more teachers in STEM fields and recruiting experts in these fields from abroad. It's also been suggested that students who perform well in STEM classes should be financially and academically supported by both the federal government and the schools they attend.

Is all of this enough? If anything, it's a start. With many feeling that America's competitiveness could be jeopardized unless it maintains a certain level of innovation in science and technology, it's the start that could very well help the country keep pace and maybe even overcome other STEM-focused countries around the world.

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