In response to the growing push towards increased education in the STEM (Science, Technology, Engineering and Math) fields, the newly formed San Diego c, in partnership with the San Diego Science Alliance, hosted the inaugural STEM Summit last Friday, May 3. Hosted at Grossmont College, the day-long summit gathered over 150 industry professionals and educators passionate about the STEM educational track and how this track can bring about dynamic change and advancements in the San Diego community, as well as the nation.
The United States is currently ranked 17th in the world in education. Nationally, students in grades 1 – 4 receive only 2.3 hours of science instruction per week on average. The educators who addressed attendees on Friday pointed to this fact and urged leaders to take action.
“I go to data to create a real sense of urgency on why we need this,” said Assistant Superintendent of the San Diego County Office of Education, Debbie Beldock. “I want us to really think about where we are as a country. What we know today is that we’re not producing students who are competitive in the global workforce. We now have industries that are no longer coming to the United States to interview our students because they perceive that our students do not have the skills and knowledge to be productive citizens in a global workplace. That’s very, very scary.”
Ms. Beldock cited a report issued by the United States government dictating that in order for the country to maintain a level of technological prominence, it must produce one million more graduates from STEM fields than are currently graduating today. This problem is interrelated with educational equity. Educational opportunities are far from equal in the United States, let alone San Diego County. What the STEM summit also addressed, was the need to create opportunities for those underrepresented and disadvantaged youth.
“I believe it’s our moral obligation to ensure that every student, no matter what neighborhood they live in or what gender they happen to be, receives access to high quality STEM education. Think about not only who we are serving, but who are we not serving,” added Ms. Beldock.
The numbers for blacks earning degrees in STEM-related fields has declined slightly over the past decade. According to the National Center for Education Statistics, they received just 7 percent of all STEM bachelor’s degrees, 4 percent of master’s degrees, and 2 percent of PhDs in 2009. From community college through the PhD level, the percentage of STEM degrees received by blacks in 2009 was 7.5 percent, down from 8.1 percent in 2001.
Further, Ms. Beldock stated the definition of STEM literacy as: “a knowledge and understanding of scientific and mathematical concepts and processes required for personal decision making, participation in civic and cultural affairs and economic productivity for all students. That’s not about being a scientist or an engineer or a mathematician, that’s about being a productive citizen in our world.”
Also present, were several students of San Diego County schools who have benefitted from a STEM track, including San Ysidro High School senior, Sahara Astrop. Sahara’s passion for medicine pushed her to enroll in Medical Pathways, a medical program on San Ysidro High’s campus which includes courses such as medical biology, biotechnology, medical chemistry, human anatomy and physiology. This program allows students to discover career opportunities offered through a STEM education incorporating rigorous courses, field trips and other comprehensive learning. “These classes not only pushed me to grow academically, but holistically,” said Sahara. She has been accepted to Notre Dame and will study to pursue a career as a physician.
The STEM Summit comprised a variety of intense working sessions, speed rounds and panels ranging in topics including linking academics and real world STEM, the role of Next Generation Science Standards in Advancing STEM education and efforts to enhance STEM Teacher Leadership, and STEM Teacher Pathways.
The STEM Summit will become an annual event which will aggressively tackle STEM education, and work towards enhancing and availing such educational opportunities to the community as a whole. The National Research Council states, “STEM education can be an interdisciplinary or transdisciplinary approach to learning where rigorous academic concepts are coupled with real world problem-based and performance-based lessons. At this level, STEM education exemplifies the axiom, ‘the whole is more than the sum of the parts.’”
For more information on STEM education in California schools visit http://www.cde.ca.gov/pd/ca/sc/stemintrod.asp