STEM (science, technology, engineering and math) education has been the focus of a series of reports released by different governmental agencies within the past few weeks.
On Sept. 16, the White House announced the release of a report from the President’s Council of Advisors on Science and Technology titled “Prepare and Inspire: K-12 Education in Science, Technology, Engineering, and Math (STEM) for America’s Future.” Developed in response to a request from President Obama in 2009 that the council analyze measures that would maintain American excellence in STEM fields, the report calls on the government to standardize curricula and science programs across the country, similar to recommendations put forth by the National Academies’ Board on Science Education earlier this summer. The report also calls for increased attention to recruiting and training future generations of STEM teachers. While focusing on STEM education at the K-12 level, the report’s authors promise additional future studies focusing on secondary education.
Meanwhile, the National Science Foundation released its own report Sept. 15 detailing the need for STEM “innovators” who are capable of “significant breakthroughs or advances in scientific and technological understanding.” Similar to the PCAST analysis, the NSF concludes in “Preparing the Next Generation of STEM Innovators: Identifying and Developing our Nation’s Human Capital” that not enough is being done to identify and develop these individuals at early stages in their educational careers. The report adds that the United States must do more to ensure that these potential innovators remain properly motivated to continue working in these important fields to ensure they reach their full capabilities.
Finally, the National Academies released its second update to the 2005 “Rising Above the Gathering Storm” report Sept. 23. The initial study, which detailed negative trends in American educational proficiency and overall scientific and technological competitiveness, offered recommendations on ways to reverse the observed decline. Despite initial encouraging steps after the initial publication, including the enactment of the America COMPETES Act in 2007, the new report, “Rising Above the Gathering Storm, Revisited: Rapidly Approaching Category 5,” concludes that failure to fully invest in both education and research has contributed to a substantial deterioration of American competitiveness that will only be exacerbated in years to come.
Four of the National Academies report’s authors were called to testify Thursday before the House Committee on Science and Technology. In addition to discussing their findings, the witnesses expressed their support for reauthorization of the 2007 America COMPETES Act, the triumphant end result of the initial “Rising Above” report, set to expire this year. ASBMB has signed on to a letter from numerous societies and organizations that urges the U.S. Senate to complete reauthorization of America COMPETES.