“Want more kids to go into STEM? Incorporate more Space in the classroom.”
From 2004 to 2014, the overall job market grew by 4.5%, while tech jobs expanded by 31%. What does this mean for education? The obvious answer is, we need to rethink graduation requirements and add more technology classes to course offerings. According to a 2016 Gallup study on computer science education, only 40% of principals in K-12 schools in the U.S. report having at least one computer science class where students can learn how to code or computer programming. Although this is up 25% from 2015, this is not enough to meet projected demands. One of the big issues is a shortage of teachers who are qualified to teach computer science curriculum. 63% of principals and 74% of superintendents who do not offer technology classes attribute this as a barrier. Another speed bump cited is the issue of time needed to prepare students for testing requirements in other courses. The battle of the tests strikes again...
The median annual salary for STEM jobs in 2014 was $78,610, more than double the $33,900 median salary for non-STEM; the mean wage for STEM was $85,570, and it was $47,230 for non-STEM. (Also see Forbes magazine, “The Valley and the Upstarts.”) This is great news for students going into STEM fields, however, we again have the chicken and the egg dilemma again... a shortage of STEM teachers to prepare students for these careers. A clue to this could be in the first line... As of 2018, a public school teacher makes a median annual salary of $54,980. A potential pay cut of over $23 grand a year is a hard sell to someone even considering a career switch to education.
Only 16% of American high school students are interested in a STEM career and proficient in math. Of the students who pursue a college major in a STEM discipline, only about half decide to work in a STEM career. The United States ranks a dismal 34th among industrialized nations in math and 27th in science.
The White House projects that by 2018 (that's now!) there will be 2.4 million unfilled STEM jobs in the United States. While an estimated 1.4 million U.S. science-related jobs will exist by 2020, American college graduates are expected to fill less than a third of them.
One out of 20 students in American colleges is a citizen of another country, yet more than half of all master’s degrees and Ph.D.’s in STEM subjects go to foreign citizens. Non-Americans earn 57% of engineering doctoral degrees, 53% of computer and information sciences doctoral degrees, 50% of mathematics and statistics doctoral degrees, 49% of engineering-tech and engineering-related doctoral degrees, and 40% of doctorates in physical sciences and science technologies.
Why is this a problem? When we look at the world’s biggest problems, most require solutions related to STEM. From the data above, only a slight fraction of our country is able to solve these issues. In order to remain relevant and maintain our standing amongst nations, STEM education should be at the front of mind for every educator, politician, and when it comes down to it, every last one of us. Whether it’s discovering the cure for cancer, creating algorithms and systems for transportation, detecting the next terrorist attack, or developing the technology to send humans to Mars, the answer lies in equipping those in our classrooms with the knowledge, skills, the space to create, and the inspiration to do so.
If selecting just one area to focus on as a nation that will solve the STEM gap, what would it be?
The teacher shortage is a national issue, especially in STEM content areas. Many initiatives already exist to address this, yet the problem still exists. What out-of-the-box solutions have been overlooked?
We know that many of the problems require solutions related to STEM. What are some of the big problems that will require an answer outside of STEM?