May 9, 2017

Specialization increases in STEM fields

With large events like the March For Science drawing thousands of people in various cities across the globe and the 2017 Science + Mathematics Think-In drawing more than 175 educators from Northeast Ohio, the outcry for visibility and increased attention to science, technology and mathematics is bigger than ever.

These subjects fall under the curriculum that makes up STEM in the education system.

According to science news website Live Science, STEM is a curriculum based on the idea of educating students in four specific disciplines in an interdisciplinary and applied approach. Science, technology, engineering and mathematics are the four components of this idea.

Enrollment for degrees in STEM at Cleveland State University have increased and stayed constant in the last decade. Every year sees several thousand students applying to science and engineering programs, but consistently more students apply to business and CLASS (College of Liberal Arts and Social Sciences).

Between 2010 and 2015, the number of students applying to these programs steadily increased, attracting nearly 1,000 extra students in five years. Engineering and computer sciences draw predominantly male applicants, while health and natural sciences draw a larger number of female applicants.

“Despite perceptions and stereotypes, the College of Sciences and Health Professions actually has a majority of female students,” said Kristy L. Tokarczyk, assistant dean for student services of the College of Sciences and Health Professions.¬† “Between 2010 and 2015, the percentage of female students has actually increased with the overall college head count growing by several hundred students during that same time frame.”

The Department of Education indicates that although the varied fields of STEM need experts, not enough students pursue degrees and not enough teachers educate or promote these ideas.

 Even with increasing enrollment year by year, not enough interest and attention is being generated to sustain the growing world of studying and expanding the knowledge humankind has of this planet.

“Although there were always pockets of people pushing science and math, I think in this country and this culture, we do a lot of lip service,” said Dr. Carol Phillips-Bey, an emerita math professor. "Claiming we think education is important, claiming math and science are important, but if you look at what people do, and what people say about science, especially right now, it’s not supportive at all."

The Committee on STEM Education (CoSTEM), which is comprised of 13 agencies and includes all of the mission-science agencies and the Department of Education, has been working on a cohesive national strategy, with new and repurposed funds, to increase the impact of federal investments in several areas.

These include improving STEM instruction in the primary schooling system, increasing and sustaining public and youth engagement with these subjects, improving the experience for undergraduate students, better serving groups historically underrepresented in STEM fields, and designing graduate education for the future STEM workforce.

“We need to be sure that we are preparing students to fill those jobs that will be vacant because there are so many individuals retiring from the STEM fields,” said Susan D. Carver, director of Operation STEM and The Louis Stokes Alliances for Minority Participation (LSAMP). “There is a push in STEM areas because of the need to ensure that our workforce is viable and productive, and successful.”


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