Science education needs serious commitment

NSF-created commission emphasizes need for fundamental improvements in US math and science education.

American math and science education is in need of radical change, members of a National Science Foundation-appointed commission declared during a telephone meeting recently, even criticizing their own initial attempts at planning for the future, reports Inside Higher Ed.

The NSF created the Commission on 21st Century Education in Science, Technology, Engineering, and Mathematics in response to Congressional concern about America's falling performance in the sciences. An initial plan was crafted by the commission's subcommittees but commissioners declared that they need to go further.

"This plan lacks meat," one commission member said of the preliminary recommendations that emerged from discussions of the panel's subcommittees.

The panelists agreed on several important goals:

  • Align components of education in science technology, engineering and math (STEM). Lack of a coherent system for STEM education means that students who move between states may miss fundamental concepts as they jump from school to school.
  • Have the National Science Foundation serve as the national coordinating body for STEM education. The NSF is non-partisan, one commission member pointed out, it may weather the political and budget battles that sometimes sidetrack policies from the Department of Education.
  • Improve the lot of STEM teachers. Many commission members emphasized that it is time to "professionalize" STEM teachers and make their jobs as prestigious and well-paying as their counterparts in industry. They pointed out that by the year 2016 one quarter million science and math positions will need to be filled, with few people qualified to fill them.