Science education for school-aged children has evolved, but not in the way educators wanted. In fact, both parents and teachers have expressed concern over the amount of time allotted to science instruction in the classroom as well as how the subject is taught.
The government has taken notice as well. The need for STEM education is on the rise; economists predict future jobs will demand increasingly more knowledge of science, technology, engineering and math. President Obama has set a goal to increase the number of STEM educators, which means higher education for teachers is also in demand. Postgraduate degrees like a Master of Education in Curriculum and Instruction in Science Education are becoming more valuable, and not only for the degree holders. Students also benefit from highly educated teachers.
Science Over the Last 20 Years
To track the progress of science education over the last 20 years, the Bayer Facts of Science Education Surveys polled teachers, parents and a variety of audiences on the state of science in the United States. The first benchmark poll took place in 1995 and the most recent one in 2015.
What Bayer discovered is that, compared to answers from the original survey, adults have become disenchanted with the pace and direction of science education. Sixty-one percent of surveyed teachers, for example, felt that science needed more emphasis in school. Seventeen percent of parents feel that schools emphasized science more when they were in school than they do today.
Ninety-five percent of teachers and 79 percent of parents agree that hands-on participation remains the most effective way to teach science to grade-school children. However, 80 percent of teachers reported that they are not allowed the time to implement such lessons, and 49 percent said they lack the funding.
The White House Wants to Help
According to the U.S. Department of Education, the United States ranks 29th in math and 22nd in science among industrialized nations, and fewer young people are pursuing STEM careers after graduation. The demand for workers with STEM knowledge is only going to increase as technology continues to develop.
Better STEM education is crucial to the success of the U.S. economy, which is why the Committee on STEM Education (CoSTEM) is facilitating a national strategy to bring science education to students from pre-K through college. They want to make science, math, engineering and technology more accessible for all children — no matter their socioeconomic backgrounds — and fill schools with better teachers.
But what makes better teachers? Better tools and the freedom to tailor lessons to specific students can improve both learning and teaching. To achieve this, educators themselves need to attend school. The government is prepared to help STEM teachers receive the support, training and development they need. This support includes financial aid for postgraduate study and higher pay for those who graduate.
For science teachers who want to further their careers, a Master of Education in Curriculum and Instruction in Science Education can be an asset. Not only will teachers learn how to better cater to different students’ needs, they will also learn theory-based teaching concepts that match their teaching methods to actual student learning.
Science education in the United States needs help. For a variety of reasons, teachers are unable to give students the STEM education they need to prepare for important careers in science and technology. However, the White House is making a concentrated effort to change how the science classroom operates. Parent involvement, hands-on learning practices and highly educated teachers will all contribute to a brighter future for science students.
Learn about the UT Arlington M.Ed. in Science Education online program.
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