US Government plans to improve maths and science grades

The collective performance of US students in STEM subjects is falling behind that of many other countries. In response to this situation, the US Government’s National Science and Technology Council (NSTC) have developed a five-year strategic plan to improve STEM education across the nation.

Where does the US rank in STEM education?

According to an article by the Pew Research Center, US students continue to rank around the middle of the pack in STEM. To be more specific, one of the biggest cross-national assessments ranked America’s 15-year-olds 38th in mathematics and 24th in science out of the 71 countries assessed.

Another assessment of 2015 found that only 40% of fourth-graders, 33% of eighth-graders and 25% of 12th-graders are considered ‘proficient’ or ‘advanced’ in maths. As far as science is concerned; 24% of fourth-graders, 32% of eighth-graders and 40% of 12th-graders were rated ‘below basic’.

Why is this a problem?

Falling behind other countries in STEM education is not simply an issue of national pride. It’s a problem because it limits what the nation can achieve economically and how well it can contribute to technological development.

But apart from that, it limits the opportunities available to high school and college students. How so? Well, given that the projected percentage job increases in STEM-related occupations far exceed those of many other occupations, there will be many jobs to fill. A poor STEM education system means that America’s youth will miss out on these opportunities.

What is the US Government doing about it?

Of course, this situation is worrying to many educators, politicians and STEM professionals. So, the US Government commissioned an investigation into the current state of STEM in the US and how to go about repairing it. The results of that investigation, and the subsequent recommendations, have been put into a five-year strategic plan for STEM education. That plan, released this month, is known as ‘Charting a Course for Success: America’s Strategy for STEM Education’.

In the document’s introduction, it explains that the US Government has “a vision for a future where all Americans will have lifelong access to high-quality STEM education and the United States will be the global leader in STEM literacy, innovation, and employment”. Here’s how they plan to achieve it.

The three main recommendations/goals

Build Strong Foundations for STEM Literacy. Why? Because STEM literacy – the skills and tools needed to think logically, solve problems, innovate solutions and communicate scientifically – are at the foundation of ongoing success. As the plan itself states, “a STEM-literate public will be better equipped to handle rapid technological change and will be better prepared to participate in civil society.

Increase Diversity, Equity and Inclusion in STEM. Why? Because it will propel students from historically underrepresented groups into STEM fields of study and employment. Many of these students are the great minds of tomorrow, but up until now, that potential has been snuffed out by a lack of opportunity.

Prepare the STEM Workforce for the Future. Why? Because students are not being equipped with the practical skills and thinking abilities they need to be career-ready and to truly explore their talent. They intend to change this by ‘creating authentic learning experiences that encourage and prepare learners to pursue STEM careers’.

What do you think?

Will these three goals help to improve the state of STEM education in the US? If you live in a different country, how would you rate your STEM education in light of these three goals?

Either way, it’s encouraging to see that people are taking STEM education seriously. We do too. In fact, the three main goals of the US Government’s plan very much line up with the goals of the team at Futurum.

We hope you think so too.