of students with other priorities. Departments and institutions are acknowledging that their responsibilities extend beyond producing the next generation of scientists, engineers, mathematicians, and technicians; they are recognizing that the challenge also is to equip students with the scientific and technical literacy and numeracy required to play meaningful roles in society.
How did this revolution get started? Undergraduate education in science, mathematics, engineering, and technology has been a collage of successes and disappointments. On the success side, the diversity of institutions and courses of study in these subjects gives students a lengthy menu of options and opportunities. Many students emerge from these courses with valuable skills that have immediate application in their lives and their jobs. Undergraduate education continues to produce highly motivated and capable students who will go on to graduate school and become the scientists, engineers, and mathematicians upon whom our society so heavily depends.
But in addition to these strengths are some emerging weaknesses.
Many undergraduates do not receive enough education in these subjects. From some of the most prestigious institutions in the country, it is possible for students to graduate with not more than six percent of their work in the sciences and technology.
Many classes rely on textbooks heavy on “coverage” but weak on example, so that students are exposed to encyclopedias of fact without ever engaging in the process that is science.
Drop-out rates from science major programs are alarmingly high.
Faculty members who teach in the sciences, mathematics, and engineering often are occupied with exciting programs of investigation, but their students only rarely get to experience these programs.
Future science teachers for elementary and secondary school programs, who are essential if there is to be overall improvement in the system, are not being encouraged and are not graduating in adequate numbers.
Leaders in research intensive, high-technology industries increasingly complain that the graduates they recruit lack vital knowledge and skills they will need in the workplace.