By most standards, U.S. science education is in a sad state, meaning there is a great deal of room for improvement. With any education reform, the first task is obtaining funding. The involvement of professional scientists in reform programs could have a strong impact and serve to validate their existence, helping to draw funds from policymakers and funding agencies. Additionally, teachers need support from professionals in changing and adapting curriculum; expecting them to do so on their own is simply too much. To properly prepare students for real-world scientific work, emphasis shoudl move away from rote memorization of the scientific method and toward critical thinking, investigation, imagination, and a degree of light-heartedness. Exploration, rather than getting the “correct” answer, should be encouraged.
Another issue is the educational elitism that often occurs in science education. Programs often put too much focus on exceptional teachers and students, leaving others to fall behind. Rather, programs should be designed to include entire school systems, all teachers, and all students. High-quality education is beneficial to everyone.
To the very eloquent above answer, I would emphasis the dire need for funding. Among ‘developed’ countries, the United States is currently ranked 17th in terms of science education, behind countries like Slovenia and Hungary (in terms of Math education, we’re ranked even lower, at 25th place). These rankings reflect average (and in the case of Math, below average) education levels of 15 year olds across the US. Without consistent investment into our public schools, and a stronger emphasis on the importance of math and science education, I think we’ll continue to drop. I also think that interest is science and math programs has dwindled overall among younger people – I think stronger emphasis on the two should begin as early as primary school, with integrative programs that make the subjects both more interesting and (crucially) more accessible.
As a high school student, I’d like to impart my opinion. The answers above are very well-stated and, from my personal experience, correct in assuming that many students become uninterested in science from the way it is taught to them. The structure of science classes, as well as the pressures of succeeding in school, prevents many students from really exploring science.
The students in my classes, honor students, become overwhelmed with the amount of “busy work” presented to them, and are stressed by the idea of grades. For many students, especially upper-level (who are usually the recipients of greater funding as one of the previous answers said), getting into college is more important than learning the material.
Additionally, science classes aren’t run in a way that makes science interesting. Memorizing formulas stresses rote memory, rather than actual comprehension, and is a bit irrelevant, since most real scientists would be able to access their formulas. More laboratory work is essential to get students interested. Most discoveries have been made through observation and experimentation. Thus, lab work is not only more engaging, but reinforces theory.
Of course, to accomplish these aims, greater funding is necessary. But it’s not just about money. People can continue to pour in money to schools, and they won’t get anywhere until they fix the system. Teachers must engage students through more hands-on work and flexible assignments to focus on what the student wants to learn. If schools continue to focus on grades, then all that funding will simply support more cheating and cramming. It’s idealistic, but we must make the information we impart valuable, and not simply busy work.
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