STEM Education Laboratory
One of the matters of national importance is education in science, technology, engineering and mathematics (STEM) often referred to as STEM education. STEM education involves teaching and learning in science, technology, engineering, and mathematics, and it includes educational activities from pre-school to graduate and post-doctoral level in formal (e.g. classroom) and informal (e.g. museum) settings (Gonzalez & Kuenzi in the Congressional Research Service Report, 2012). According the U.S. President Barack Obama (2010) our nation’s “leadership tomorrow depends on how we educate our students today – especially in science, technology, engineering, and mathematics.” The U.S. Department of Commerce in a report titled STEM: Good jobs now and for the future stated that the rate of job growth in STEM fields is three times that in non-STEM fields, and STEM workers propel our nation’s economy through innovation (Langdon, McKittrick, Beede, Khan & Doms, 2011) However, the Council on Foreign Relations in a report titled U.S. Education reform and security pointed out that the failure of the U.S. in the STEM fields is leaving our students “unprepared” for the globally competitive economy threatening even our leadership role in world affairs (Klein, Rice & Levy, 2012). As the STEM Education Coalition (n.d.) posits “our nation must expand the capacity and diversity of the STEM workforce pipeline to prepare more students for the best jobs of the future that will keep the U.S. innovative, secure and competitive” (n.d.). In the nineteen fifties during the height of the cold war, U.S. education felt threatened by the Soviet Union launching the Sputnik. In 2014, over six decades later U.S. education still feels threatened not necessarily by Russia but by a lack of adequate education in STEM resulting in a workforce quite inadequate to compete successfully in a highly competitive global economy. The observation made by the Hart-Rudman Commission in 1999 that one of the “major problems faced by the education system is the insufficient number of students opting to enter science and technology fields, --- a shortage of personnel with technical skills already exists today in government, in the military, and in industries critical to national security” (n.p.) still holds true fifteen years later.
To improve STEM education we must prioritize our efforts on the changes that are fruitful. Experience tells us that “reinventing the wheel” and maintaining status quo may not be the right solution. Instead we need to explore solutions that are feasible and productive in improving STEM education in our schools and colleges. It is imperative that practical solutions to problems facing STEM education are developed and implemented and the College of Education at Florida Atlantic University is in a strategic position to lead STEM education reform in south Florida. Thank you.
David Devraj Kumar