This nation has established as a goal that all students should achieve scientific literacy. The National Science Education Standards are designed to enable the nation to achieve that goal. They spell out a vision of science education that will make scientific literacy for all a reality in the 21st century. They point toward a destination and provide a roadmap for how to get there.
All of us have a stake, as individuals and as a society, in scientific literacy. An understanding of science makes it possible for everyone to share in the richness and excitement of comprehending the natural world. Scientific literacy enables people to use scientific principles and processes in making personal decisions and to participate in discussions of scientific issues that affect society. A sound grounding in science strengthens many of the skills that people use every day, like solving problems creatively, thinking critically, working cooperatively in teams, using technology effectively, and valuing life-long learning. And the economic productivity of our society is tightly linked to the scientific and technological skills of our work force.
Many types of individuals will play a critical role in improving science education: teachers; science supervisors; curriculum developers; publishers; those who work in museums, zoos, and science centers; science educators; scientists and engineers across the nation; school administrators; school board members; parents; members of business and industry; and legislators and other public officials.
Individuals from all of these groups were involved in the development of the National Science Education Standards, and now all must act together in the national interest. Achieving scientific literacy will take time because the Standards call for dramatic changes throughout school systems. They emphasize a new way of teaching and learning about science that reflects how science itself is done, emphasizing inquiry as a way of achieving knowledge and understanding about the world. They also invoke changes in what students are taught, in how their performance is assessed, in how teachers are educated and keep pace, and in the relationship between schools and the rest of the community—including the nation's scientists and engineers. The Standards make acquiring scientific knowledge, understanding, and abilities a central aspect of education, just as science has become a central aspect of our society.
The National Science Education Standards are premised on a conviction that all students deserve and must have the opportunity to become scientifically literate. The Standards look toward a future in which all Americans, familiar with basic scientific ideas and processes, can have fuller and more productive lives. This is a vision of great hope and optimism for America, one that can act as a powerful unifying force in our society. We are excited and hopeful about the difference that the Standards will make in the lives of individuals and the vitality of the nation.
CHAIRMAN NATIONAL COMMITTEE ON SCIENCE EDUCATION STANDARDS AND ASSESSMENT
PRESIDENT NATIONAL ACADEMY OF SCIENCES