STEM initiatives not the answer
Published: Wednesday, July 11, 2012
Updated: Wednesday, July 11, 2012 15:07
Students have undoubtedly become aware of the recent push in education toward majors in science, technology, engineering and mathematics fields. Nationwide outreach programs have been installed to fulfill these goals, but unfortunately like many career fields in today’s economy, the jobs simply aren’t there.
According to a 2009 National Science Foundation survey, only 14 percent of graduates with a doctorate in biology secure an academic position within five years.
“There have been many predictions of [science] labor shortages and ... robust job growth. And yet, it seems awfully hard for people to find a job. Anyone who goes into science expecting employers to clamor for their services will be deeply disappointed,” said Jim Austin, editor of the online magazine Science Careers. This is a troublesome statistic for many students currently working toward degrees in these fields. Even social science majors, like psychology and history, are currently experiencing unemployment rates of 15 to 19 percent.
Linda Rosen, CEO of the nonprofit organization Change the Equation, along with other business executives, expressed her frustration late last year at the STEM education summit. “The corporate community has been very generous in their philanthropy. They are frustrated. There’s a lot of money, and not lots of results,” Rosen explained to U.S. News. Lack of funding does not seem to be the issue while getting students excited and engaged about math and science does. But if the money is there and the students are there, where are the jobs? The entire predicament begs the question: Are STEM initiatives a waste of time and money? It seems so. Students who are currently pushing through a bachelor’s or even a doctorate in a STEM field are becoming disenchanted with the tireless job search, all while watching interest rates grow on their student loans. If high school students are paying any attention at all, there is a high probability they will reconsider their college and career paths. The push, of course, has grown out of a concern at America’s standing within the global science community, which is less than desirable. A 2010 Organization for Economic Co-operation and Development survey ranked the United States 25th in the world in math scores and 17th in science, while countries like South Korea, Finland and Canada topped the charts in these subjects. The need to compete in this global education push has been made clear, but unfortunately it’s not working. Maybe it’s because our nation’s overall education system needs to be overhauled. There is no excuse for such poor performance in a nation that has so many resources within its reach, especially when technology and financial jobs are the common ones being outsourced. A White House report released last year estimated that $3.6 billion in funding has gone toward more than 250 STEM programs in the U.S. With the current state of education that is clearly ineffective, these dollars are essentially being wasted. With global standings of this nature, it’s also difficult to believe the Center for American Progress study, which recently concluded that a majority of students feel that school is “too easy.” The solution is obvious: New academic standards need to be instituted, and STEM programs need to be at the forefront of this movement. Otherwise, students currently pushing for jobs that aid national progress and achievement stand to lose.
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