WASHINGTON, Feb. 7, 2012 — The American Chemical Society (ACS) applauds a presidential report issued today that aims to both better educate undergraduates in science, technology, engineering and math (STEM) and increase the number of students graduating with degrees in these fields.
The report also specifically recommends key actions to prepare and motivate students for good-paying jobs in STEM fields – jobs that are projected to grow significantly in the future.
“As president of the world’s largest scientific society, I am pleased to see our nation’s leaders embracing and supporting STEM education,” said ACS President Bassam Z. Shakhashiri, Ph.D. “Bi-partisan support for such a significant national need is critical. These recommendations capture the enthusiasm and vigor that science education must provide our up-and-coming generation of scientists. Hands-on learning, as this report emphasizes, is critical. Observing chemical reactions in a lab, analyzing the biology of a stream, or engineering a machine – this is what gets the heart pumping. That fascination with doing science grips the imagination and carries one beyond the classroom, well into a career.”
The Engage to Excel report released today by the President’s Council of Advisors on Science and Technology makes several important recommendations. Paramount are the needs to improve teaching methods emphasizing evidence-based learning, increase undergraduate research opportunities and draw more non-traditional students to STEM education and careers. As the report indicates, 70 percent of American college students are women and minorities, yet they comprise only 45 percent of undergraduates who pursue majors in STEM subjects. There is a substantial pool of talent that is not adequately developed.
Students also choose majors in fields where they think they can secure employment. The report calls for improving data provided by the Department of Education and the Bureau of Labor Statistics to redefine employment categories that require STEM skills, such as medical careers and advanced manufacturing – currently, employment is not depicted or tracked this way.
“This is an important step,” said Shakhashiri. “We must work to ensure that society understands just how central science, engineering, technology and math are to pursuing a wide spectrum of good-paying jobs. This is crucial in cultivating non-traditional students and guiding them to promising futures in scientific jobs that will help reinvigorate our nation’s economy.”
In recent years, predictable and sustained support for STEM education has created valuable programs that can now leverage new teaching methods and truly motivate students. Strengthening mathematics at all levels from elementary education to remedial courses at the college level is also emphasized. The report also calls for forming a Presidential Council to generate new ideas and keep a high-level focus on STEM education issues.
ACS is a leader in STEM policy and serves as co-chair of the STEM Education Coalition. ACS advocates improving the rigor and standards for up-to-date science content knowledge and expanding the student base to develop diverse talents among the next generation of scientists. For a full discussion of additional policy points, please visit the ACS STEM education policy Webpage. ACS also advocates for expanding and improving laboratories at two- and four-year colleges and universities so students learn science with modern instruments and state-of-the-art facilities.