The importance of STEM is apparent in today's classroom—increasingly, classes are contoured into hands-on, investigative experiences for students, and policy-makers have made these disciplines a priority. This makes sense, as the number of jobs and degree programs has increased in science, technology, engineering, and mathematics fields. Since 2009, national attention has turned to focusing student learning on the disciplines of science, technology, engineering, and mathematics so they will be well prepared for their future college courses, jobs, and careers. What are the most important trends in education today?
Improvements in Math and Science
For some time American students have underperformed in the science, technology, engineering, and math disciplines, compared to their international peers. However, a Pew Research Center report last year compared present U.S. student test scores in math assessments to U.S. scores from twenty years ago, and found higher score averages in the current students: that is, students were grasping concepts at a higher rate than students had two decades earlier. The research study found this same outcome to be true of science evaluations. While this is an improvement, American students are still ranked lower on science and mathematic evaluations than students in 26 other countries. Still, the Pew study suggests some progress and the prospect of improving in the international rankings as the focus on STEM education continues to grow each year.
The Gender and Ethnicity Gap
Women and minorities continue to be underrepresented in these important fields, and there is continuing concern about their lack of interest in these growing careers. A U.S. News and World Report article recently noted that parents who are actively involved in their children's interests and educational progress can have a major impact on their children's interest in STEM. Yet encouragement from home may not be the most effective way to close the gap. Educators hope that as more girls and minorities are exposed to science technology, engineering, and math education at a younger age, the more likely they will be to continue their interest and eventually obtain related degrees.
The Increase of STEM Jobs
One of the most important reasons behind the push for STEM is the number of jobs that are focused on these discplines. Currently, jobs in these fields are growing rapidly: 8.6 million STEM-related jobs are expected to be in place by 2018. At this time over four percent of U.S. jobs are in related fields; as this percentage grows, more employees will be needed to meet the demand. For employees in the science and engineering sector, unemployment is much lower than other job sectors. Furthermore, compensation typically starts at a higher level for these highly sought positions than for those that are non-STEM related.
Growing Number of Graduates
If you read the last paragrah and thought, "a higher starting salary sounds great" then you will be surprised to know that unfortunately the number of STEM graduates has not seen a significant increase in the last decade. Varying factors influence these numbers, but it is worth noting that it was estimated in 2014 that 34 percent of bachelor's degrees were in these fields, while 33 percent of degrees were obtained in these fields a decade earlier.
Trending Toward the Future
Statistics continue to reinforce the importance of focusing on STEM education in primary and secondary school as well as post-secondary schooling. With a growing number of jobs in science, technology, engineering, and mathematic fields, the demand for career-ready individuals will continue to grow as well. Helping students gain the knowledge and skills necessary for these jobs will build a workforce of people who are prepared for post-secondary opportunities and employment in science, technology, engineering, and math professions.