Sunday, May 6, 2012

Taking Time Out to Revitalize STEM

by Keith Peden, SVP

For years, the United States has been losing ground to other countries in the race for qualified workers in science, technology, engineering, and mathematics; the so-called STEM fields. It's not that American kids start out any less curious about the world than kids abroad. But they are clearly not getting the kind of motivation they need.

National Volunteer Week, which took place in late April, provided a perfect opportunity for local scientists, tech professionals and business leaders to share their enthusiasm with the next generation of researchers.

The basic numbers are clear enough: On international tests, U.S students are ranked 31st in the world in math. In 2009, when the Organisation for Economic Co-operation and Development (OECD) ranked countries based on how many of their young workers had STEM degrees, America came in 23rd, well below the OECD average and trailing Spain, Portugal, and Turkey.

The problem shows up throughout the educational pipeline. By the time they reach 12th grade, only 17 percent of students are both interested in a STEM career and considered "proficient" in math. That's not good enough.

The demographic gaps are also troubling. One-quarter of African American 12th graders are interested in STEM but not proficient in math, and only 20 percent of engineering students are female.

Read the rest of this Gainesville Sun article.

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