The Current Situation
Recent research published by the Pew Research Center reported that US students rank somewhere in the middle when it comes to science and mathematics. According to the most recent available data, collected as part of the Programme for International Student Assessment (PISA) of 2015, America’s 15-year-olds ranked 38th in mathematics and 24th in science out of the 71 countries assessed.
In another cross-national assessment of 2015, known as Trends in International Mathematics and Science Study, or TIMSS, America’s fourth-graders ranked 11th in mathematics and 8th in science out of the 48 countries assessed. As for eighth-graders, they ranked 8th out of 37 countries for both mathematics and science. In the National Assessment of Educational Progress (NAEP) assessment results of 2015, only 40% of fourth-graders, 33% of eighth-graders and 25% of 12th-graders were rated as proficient or better in mathematics and only 38% of fourth-graders, 34% of eighth-graders and 22% of 12th-graders were rated likewise in science.
There is certainly room for improvement.
Representation of Women and Minority Groups in STEM
Rodney C. Adkins, senior vice president of IBM’s Systems & Technology Group, in an article published by Forbes in 2013, explained that, ‘although women fill close to half of all jobs in the US, they hold less than 25% of STEM-related jobs. At the same time, 43% of school-age children today are of African American, Latino, or Native American descent. Yet of all the engineering bachelor’s degrees in the US, less than 15% are awarded to underrepresented minorities.’
As the above statistics show, the representation of both women and those from minority groups need to be improved.
Strong Demand for Workers in STEM-Related Fields
According to an article published by US News, fewer than 4 in 10 students who begin college intent on majoring in a STEM subject actually complete a degree in that field. Furthermore, according to the US Department of Education, only 16% of American high school seniors are proficient in math and interested in a STEM career.
Why is this of concern?
Because the demand for workers in the various fields of STEM is great. As reported on by LiveScience, an estimated 8.65 million workers will be needed to fill STEM-related jobs by 2018. Furthermore, the projected percentage job increases in STEM-related occupations far exceed those of many other occupations.
How to Improve STEM Education in the US
Adkins outlined three main areas that need attention if STEM education in the US is to be improved— increasing enthusiasm for STEM throughout the high school and college years, including more women and underrepresented minorities, and the providing students with exceptional role models.
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