The Sea Change in Science Education: Corporate Stakeholders Step Up
by Pete Monfre and Maggie Bencivenga
Dr. Miya Bialik, looking bookish in her black rimmed glasses seems surprised by the question delving into her childhood school experience. “I was interested in science [as a kid] but didn’t think science was for me. It was very hard for me, and I thought because something was hard, then I wasn’t good at it.” Best known for her television roles as Blossom and as Amy Farrah Fowler on CBS’s Big Bang Theory, Bialik went on to earn a P.h.D. in Neuroscience in spite of her early experiences.
It turns out, her experience with the educational system isn’t unique. I was convinced at a young age, that mathematics was something I simply could not learn. This belief changed the course of my life and led me from business school (which required passing calculus) to art school. Like Dr. Bialik, I’ve made it work. But most kids never get there.
According to a study by the Business Higher Education Forum, 60 Percent of students lose interest in science and mathematics between 1st and 8th grade with a precipitous drop in 5th grade.
“As it turns out, everyone from main street and the White House to America’s leading companies are waking up to the fact that the supply of innovative, educated and inspired workers is a shrinking pool,” says Reid Whitaker, creator of STEMScopes, an interactive science program currently used by over 1.2 million students in Texas. Whitaker adds, “And it happens sooner than we thought.”
This decrease of interest is echoed by Karen Flammer, co-founder of Sally Ride Science who says “National surveys have shown that when we polled the interest of science and mathematics among 4th grade girls and boys we found that 66 percent of girls and 68 percent of boys were interested. When we took the poll among 5thgraders both girls and boys interest fell below 50 percent.”