- A new Pew Research Center poll finds most Americans feel the quality of STEM education in the U.S. is “middling” compared to most other countries, according to The Hechinger Report.
- Only about 25% of Americans surveyed feel that K-12 STEM education is above average compared to other advanced countries, and only 13% of people with a postgraduate degree in a STEM field feel that it excels. Additionally, 55% said STEM teachers spent too much time meeting state standards, and 53% said they spent too little time emphasizing practical applications.
- The field also still remains dominated by white males: The representation of women in computer fields has declined since 1990, while black and Hispanic employees each make up less than 10% of the STEM workforce.
This new poll by the Pew Research Center puts some hard numbers on a field that has dominated the educational landscape in recent years. The study indicates that there is still much to be done, not only in the actual area of STEM education, but also in the perception of STEM fields and education. The sentiments in this survey are echoed by Shirley Malcom, an African-American woman born in Birmingham, AL, who navigated racism and sexism as she earned a Ph.D in ecology and become a director of the world's largest general scientific society.
Another enlightening study in this area is Microsoft's "STEM Perceptions," which indicates the importance of teachers in STEM careers, as 57% say that a K-12 teacher or class got them interested in a related field. However, only a fifth of college students feel their K-12 education prepared them for college courses in STEM.
Both pieces of research indicate that schools need to provide more rigorous science courses at the high school level, a challenge for schools in areas where science teachers are at a premium. But the problem is not just in the offering of more rigorous courses: It lies in the attitudes of students and parents and the general societal approach to high school education, which emphasizes socialization above study. According to the Pew Survey, 59% of respondents said students are not willing to work hard to excel in STEM courses, and 61% said parents aren’t sufficiently willing to support schools in this area or to pay for extra tutoring.