The development of science courses and teachers in high school and college is approaching a level commensurate with its increasing significance in a technology-reliant world. This is promising news for those keeping track of higher education statistics that show a decline in the number of students ready for college level science courses after graduating high school. It is hoped that students both in undergraduate and graduate studies will be offered the opportunity to expand their skills and knowledge bases through increased funding for the abovementioned curricula, and general encouragement at home and at school to continue their education.
In 2014, the Physics Teacher Education Coalition (PhysTEC) expressed its disappointment and proposed goals for improvement concerning the educational and pedagogical preparedness of the average physics teacher. The program asks schools to review candidates for teaching positions with more scrutiny and selectivity, seeking to raise the standard of teaching in high schools where educators were found lacking subject-specific backgrounds and experience lecturing on relevant material. The coalition’s proposal also included hiring more teachers in attempt to make the number of teachers more moderately proportional to the rising number of students taking STEM courses. A concurrent effort is to urge women specifically to express interest in STEM fields where they represent an underwhelming 28% of the workforce. This is compared with the near 50% they represent in the workforce as a whole. As women establish themselves as equally competent candidates in fields that were historically associated with men, workplace equality may be in the cards.
PhysTEC’s project is already showing positive results. Although the coalition stated that its low budget could better provide “bootstrapping a nascent physics teacher education program rather than long-term funding,” a review of the outcomes showed that most programs managed to reach higher productivity levels among better trained teachers, and receive continued funding after PhysTEC’s grants ended. This surge in grants offered to STEM course funding has extended the number of opportunities available to both men and women in a field that faced an unfortunate decline in enthusiasm. (1)(3)
In the larger picture, the shifting increase in focus on science-based subjects may be especially inviting news to women who are seeing a rise in earnings. The Huffington Post states “there has never been a better time for women to break into the field” of STEM careers (science, technology, engineering, maths) noting that they bring in 33% more than their non-STEM counterparts. (2)
- American Physical Society. “Creating sustainable STEM teacher programs.” ScienceDaily. ScienceDaily, 24 July 2014. <www.sciencedaily.com/releases/2014/07/140724144259.htm>.