Regaining our Lead in STEM Education

Monday, May 13, 2013

From 1997 to 2009, enrollment in the Advanced Placement test for music theory grew by 362 percent and enrollment in the computer science AB AP test grew by only 12 percent, according to the Information Technology and Innovation Foundation.

Pop quiz: Which of those fields is part of one of the fastest-growing segments of the U.S. jobs market?

If you guessed music theory, you are decidedly off key. While the arts are important, we must also be mindful of the current demands of our job market. The news demonstrates the importance of addressing the gaping hole in our science, technology, engineering and mathematics workforce, and the answer may arrive in the form of immigration reform proposed by a bipartisan group of lawmakers that attempts to immediately plug the STEM jobs hole while also taking steps to tackle the long-term STEM education problems.

The U.S. faces a shortage of workers and of students proficient in math and science, placing 25th in math and 17th in science in a ranking of 31 countries by the Organisation for Economic Co-operation and Development. This is adversely affected since about a third of math students and two-thirds of students in physical science are being taught by teachers who did not major in the subject or are not certified to teach them.

If the U.S. remains on its current path, the nation won’t be able to fill as many as 3 million jobs in STEM fields, according to some estimates. And nearly two-thirds of those jobs will require advanced degrees.

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