Tuesday, August 02, 2005

Business Helping Out With STEM Education

After a bit of an absence for many, many reasons, I wanted to throw out there a headline from an NSTA brief:

15 Leading Business Groups Launch Action Plan To Improve Science and Math Education; Call for Doubling of STEM Graduates in 10 Years
15 major business groups representing business of every size and from every sector of the economy—led by the CEO members of the Business Roundtable—last week called for doubling the number of science, technology, engineering, and mathematics (STEM) graduates by the year 2015 and issued an action plan to do this by:
Launching an awareness campaign to make improvements in STEM fields a national priority;
Motivating students and adults to study and enter careers in these disciplines;
Upgrading elementary and secondary teaching in math and science;
Reforming visa and immigration policies to enable the U.S. to attract and retain top STEM students; and
Boosting and sustaining funding for basic research.
In a press statement Business Roundtable President John Castellani says the business community would “take the lead in building public awareness and support for greater interest, investment, and performance in science, technology, engineering, and math by:
Expanding the successful State Scholars program that encourages students to take rigorous courses in high school;
Offering more opportunities for company employees to serve as role models and mentors in these fields;
Providing teachers with materials that will show students the importance of math and science in a wide range of careers;
Funding scholarships for students and professional development for math and science teachers;
Working with education groups, the media, and the entertainment industry on messages showing how math and science learning leads to a wide range of interesting careers; and
Meeting with and lobbying Governors and Members of Congress to carry out the report's recommendations.

This is, in my opinion, a positive bit of news. Too often one reads about the complaints of the industrial and business sectors about the lack of qualified candidates for technical jobs. The level of lobbying and influence business groups like this have is substantial, and if they follow through on the rhetoric some positive things are likely in the world of science and technology education. Especially important for classroom teachers is a call for providing materials to help show students the importance and relevance of math and science in everyday life as well as in longer timeframes, i.e. careers. It is my experience that making a subject relevant to students’ lives is perhaps the single biggest thing any teacher can do, and achieving this level of presentation in a classroom is as close to a guarantee of engaging students there is…and engaged students tend to learn and accomplish much more than those who are not. I hope this action influences other business leaders to join in on a wide scale, and we will see where efforts like this can lead.

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