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Engineering Education Tasks for the New Century: Japanese and U.S. Perspectives 2 K-12 Education of Future Engineers SUMMARY POINTS There are large and persistent gaps in performance between the U.S. and Japanese K-12 education systems. Underlying these gaps are significant differences in the organization and funding of schools, the practice of teaching, and in some cases fundamental attitudes toward education and learning. Although current U.S. educational reform efforts appear to be making some headway, improving K-12 math and science education remains a serious long-term challenge. In conceiving and implementing reforms, the U.S. working group believes that there is a great deal that can be learned from Japan and implemented in the U.S. context. The U.S. working group believes that a particular focus for learning from Japan to improve U.S. science and math education should be on the practice of teaching, including approaches to teacher preparation, on-the-job training and mentoring of new teachers, and career-long enhancement of knowledge and skills. A focused U.S.-Japan exchange in this area could deliver benefits to both countries. The Japanese working group believes that developing new approaches to K-12 education that encourage students to consider and pursue engineering careers is the most serious challenge common to both Japan and the United States. For the United States, this involves ensuring that all students develop an understanding of the importance of technology and related careers in modern society. Recent efforts to make technology a subject of precollege study in addition to math and science should be pursued vigorously. Another U.S. goal is to encourage as many students as possible to retain an option to pursue engineering studies by continuing their study of math and science through grades 9–12. OVERVIEW Most studies of engineering education naturally focus on undergraduate and graduate training because engineering as a specific, identifiable specialty commences at the undergraduate level. Ensuring that a sufficient number of adequately prepared students enter engineering schools is central to the long-term health of engineering education and to the larger scientific and technological enterprises of both the United States and Japan. Also, K-12 education has a profound effect on later engineering education needs and trends. U.S.-Japan differences in approach that appear at the K-12 level are linked with other features distinguishing the respective systems for training and utilizing engineers, and to the challenges for the future that each country faces. Believing that a life-long learning approach would be the most valuable for a U.S.-Japan study, the joint task force includes this overview of K-12 education, with a focus on science, mathematics, and technology.1 This overview includes a review of the general features of the two systems, as well as an examination of qualitative issues and challenges particularly relevant to engineering education.
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Engineering Education Tasks for the New Century: Japanese and U.S. Perspectives GENERAL FEATURES OF K-12 EDUCATION IN JAPAN AND THE UNITED STATES Organization, Control, and Funding There are significant differences between Japan and the United States in the organization and control of K-12 education. The centralized, national administration of the Japanese system can be contrasted with the dispersed, local administration of the U.S. system. These differences are perceived to have significant implications for the nature of K-12 education, with the belief that Japanese strengths lie in standardization and attention to detail and corresponding U.S. advantages lie in diversity and promotion of creativity. Although there are significant differences in the general structures of Japanese and U.S. K-12 education, a closer examination shows that in some respects the conventional view is distorted and oversimplified. Japanese K-12 education is rightly seen as very successful in fulfilling its basic mission. The Japanese population is one of the most highly educated of any country in the world. Illiteracy has been almost completely eliminated, and Japanese students consistently are among the top performers in comparative studies of academic achievement. The educational system that is responsible for these accomplishments is a post-World War II phenomenon. The drastic changes in the educational system began in 1947, when they were enunciated in the Fundamental Law of Education, a law that has guided the educational system since that time. National curricula in Japan define what is expected of children at each grade level and textbooks are written to conform to these standards. The Ministry of Education, Science, Sports, and Culture (Monbusho) sets high standards for Japanese students, but not so high that the average student, with appropriate instruction and practice, is unable to meet them. It is assumed that standards should be set so that all children are able to understand the material if they study and if the teacher presents the information effectively. Japanese parents reinforce the effort to maintain high standards because they are aware of the competition their child faces in his or her attempts to gain entrance into a university. Because numerical grades are used in the evaluation of their child's knowledge, the parent is also aware of where their child stands in relation to these standards. Monbusho also defines the organization of the schools and the course of study. Schools throughout Japan follow the same general schedule. Monbusho directives describe the general curriculum and individual schools are allowed to organize their curriculum in the way they wish, as long as they do not deviate from the general outline. Monbusho guidelines also specify the number of hours that should be devoted to each subject. The organization and control of K-12 education in the United States contrasts sharply with that of Japan.2 All children in the United States have access to a free public education, and most states require attendance until age sixteen.3 Control of structure and curricula lies with local communities and state governments. The number of days students are expected to be enrolled each year and the number of courses required for graduation are determined at the state level, but school districts and individual schools, often working with local school boards and committees, determine the time that should be devoted to subject matter and extracurricular activities. Unlike Monbusho, the U.S. Department of Education has no role in determining curricula or standards. The U.S. federal government does have influence on pre K-12 education through its funding for supplemental programs such as Head Start aimed at equalizing educational opportunities nationwide, collection and dissemination of information about education, and in facilitating national dialogue and debate on education issues. 4 Although both Japanese and U.S. public elementary and secondary schools rely heavily on decentralized funding support, the relative contribution by the national government is much higher in Japan (Figure 2-1 and Table 2-1). Inevitable differences exist between localities in the level at which they are willing or able to support public education. This factor, combined with the much greater heterogeneity of the U.S. population and school districts in terms of ethnicity,
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Engineering Education Tasks for the New Century: Japanese and U.S. Perspectives language and social conditions compared with Japan, results in a much wider variance between U.S. localities in the material conditions of K-12 education than is the case in Japan. Recent reforms at the state level in the United States, such as increased regulation of schools and new funding mechanisms to distribute resources more evenly, are aimed at lowering this variance. Figure 2-1 U.S. and Japanese public expenditures on education. NOTE: Exchange rates from International Monetary Fund; ¥144.79 per dollar. SOURCES: U.S. National Center for Education Statistics and Japan Ministry of Education, Science, and Culture.
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Engineering Education Tasks for the New Century: Japanese and U.S. Perspectives U.S.-Japan differences extend to private education. Private schools tend to play a larger role in U.S. elementary education (grade and middle school) and a smaller role in secondary education (high school) compared with Japan (Table 2-2). U.S. private schools, many of which have religious affiliations, serve as an alternative to the public school system. In Japan, private high schools are often affiliated with universities, and are subject to the same national curricula and other guidelines as public schools. TABLE 2-1 Public Education Expenditures Per Student, 1993 Primary Secondary United States $5,492 $6,541 Japan 3,960 4,356 NOTE: Constant 1993 purchasing power parity dollars. Includes public expenditure per student in public and private institutions. SOURCE: Organization for Economic Cooperation and Development, Education at a Glance, 1996. TABLE 2-2 K-12 Enrollment by Grade Level and Type of School, percentage Japan (1994) United States (1994) Kindergarten Elementary Lower Secondary (7–9) Upper Secondary (10–12) Pre K-8 9–12 National 0.4 0.6 0.8 0.2 Local Public 27.1 98.5 94.1 69.2 88.0 91.0 Private 72.5 0.9 5.1 30.6 12.0 9.0 NOTE: The Japanese government provides support to schools in all categories. SOURCES: U.S. Department of Education, National Center for Education Statistics and Japan Ministry of Education, Science, and Culture, Research and Statistics Planning Division. It is possible to make too much of these basic U.S.-Japan differences. For example, a popular image of Japan's centrally planned curriculum is that all fifth graders throughout the country learn the same lesson at the same time with the same textbook. This is not the case, for the individual school is responsible for defining its own schedule and is likely to alter the schedule from week to week. Moreover, Monbusho guidelines are very general. For example, the description of the general objectives of sixth grade mathematics describes goals such as, “To help pupils understand the meaning of multiplication and division of fractions and develop their abilities to use them. Furthermore, to help them deepen their understanding of numbers as a totality including integers, decimals, and fractions.”5 The whole mathematics curriculum for the elementary school years requires only 18 pages in its English translation. Although Monbusho approves textbooks, selection is controlled at the local level. Further, in the United States the national reach of textbook publishers contributes to widespread utilization of popular textbooks,
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Engineering Education Tasks for the New Century: Japanese and U.S. Perspectives a phenomenon that has a significant impact on what is taught. In short, the Japanese K-12 system may allow for more local variance and the U.S. system greater national coherence than popular images imply.6 Still, the different orientations of U.S. and Japanese K-12 education have important implications for science and mathematics education. In Japan, it is a given that certain prerequisite courses will be taken and that core topics will be covered. In the United States, the situation is less fixed and more chaotic. For U.S. students, taking the content of the requisite coursework necessary to enter engineering school may depend on the interest and orientation of parents, teachers and counselors. U.S. students may possess less information about career options and requirements in science and engineering compared with Japanese students, who get this information through their required courses.7 U.S.-Japan differences have important implications for education reform efforts as well. The publication of the seminal report A Nation At Risk in 1983 by the National Commission on Excellence in Education sparked increased focus on the shortcomings of U.S. elementary and secondary education. A number of reform initiatives and activities have been undertaken at the national, state and local levels, including efforts to raise standards and improve teacher training.8 One aspect of education reform efforts in the United States is the participation of the private sector, including business involvement in adopt-a-school and other cooperative programs. The private sector is also playing a major role in developing national education standards in major subjects, including science and mathematics, although the federal government plays an important role in supporting these efforts.9 Learning. Japanese educators place great importance on the belief that all children should be able to follow the regular school curriculum unless they have serious disabilities, such as blindness, deafness, or severe mental retardation or emotional disturbance. As a result, all children are automatically promoted from one grade level to the next; retaining a child in a grade for a second year is a very rare phenomenon. Because the style of teaching in Japanese classrooms involves whole-class instruction and because there are no special classes for slow learners or fast learners, the Japanese teacher is faced with the task of constructing lessons that can be understood by the greatest number of students. Other aspects of education in Japan serve to socialize students to work well in groups. Elementary school children serve lunch to their classmates and they all eat together with their teacher in their home room. Assisted by their teacher, children are also responsible for daily cleaning of the school. These activities as well as some academic activities are undertaken through the han, the subgroups into which each class is divided. Assignment to a han is done purposefully so that each han represents a wide range not only of achievement but also of other characteristics of the children in the classroom. Benefits from participating in the han are not only social but also academic, for slow learners undoubtedly derive important benefits from being exposed to the knowledge and skills of more rapid learners. Similarly, rapid learners are assumed to strengthen their understanding by being placed in the position of helping the slow learners. Students have an opportunity to experience both roles, since the han will include individuals with complementary strengths and weaknesses. Extracurricular activities also constitute an important part of learning in Japan. After fourth grade, all children must participate in at least one extracurricular activity. Opportunities for social interaction during the recesses, lunch period, and extracurricular activities, and the fact that the children and their teacher typically remain together as a group for two or three years produce a strong group identification. Strong efforts are made during the elementary and middle school years to create an egalitarian structure in schools whereby all children are exposed to a comparable type of
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Engineering Education Tasks for the New Century: Japanese and U.S. Perspectives schooling. High school education is, in contrast, hierarchically organized, so that the type of schooling differs, depending upon the type and quality of school in which the student is enrolled. The high school to which a student is admitted depends on the student's score on an admissions test administered by each prefecture or city. In contrast to the elementary and middle schools, which serve neighborhoods, a single high school serves students from throughout the city or metropolitan area. Students who seek admission to the arts (humanities or social sciences) departments of universities follow a somewhat different set of courses from that of students who seek entry into science and engineering departments. There is greater emphasis for the former group on the Japanese language and social studies, and greater emphasis for the latter group on mathematics and science.10 Other than being enrolled in high schools that place very different demands on the student in terms of academic achievement, little else is done to accommodate the differences in rate of learning among students. All students must follow the standard curriculum, but there are opportunities to enroll in elective courses. Highly capable students in mathematics may, therefore, complete the prescribed curriculum in one semester and then spend the second semester in a more advanced course in mathematics. Efforts have been made in Japanese schools to recognize and accommodate divergent student interests and abilities. Especially during the 1970s, many local schools developed tracking systems in which students were placed in a slow, average, or fast class depending upon the students' previous performance in that subject. The system did not imply long term assignment to a particular track; if a slower student's work improved, he or she would move up to a higher level. By the early 1980s, about 40 percent of high schools practiced some degree of tracking according to level of ability. However, it seems never to have gained popular acceptance outside the urban areas of Tokyo and Osaka. The major objection was that it appeared to be a return to an “elite” form of education that characterized Japanese education earlier in this century. Despite the remarkable success of Japan's K-12 educational system, Japanese conversations about education often lead to expression of various types of dissatisfaction. Even Monbusho suggests that “elementary and secondary education of Japan is faced with several problems, such as excessive uniformity, excessive competition to pass the entrance examination into upper level institutions, and the problem of maladjustment to school.”11 More recently the newspapers of Japan are full of articles expressing great concern about bullying (ijime) and student suicides that have been linked to ijime. The concern about uniformity is expressed in charges that teachers' modes of instruction and students' approaches to learning do not lead to creative, thoughtful individuals who are able to express their own opinions. A Monbusho publication suggests that “individual characteristics of each pupil ought to be developed, his/her creativity explored, and school education must be sufficiently diversified and flexible.”12 Japanese students are pictured as being weaker in understanding a subject than in remembering facts; in being less able to think mathematically or scientifically than in recalling the content of lessons or chapters in their textbooks. These descriptions of Japanese students—and of East Asian students in general—are based on opinions rather than upon objective research. In fact, in one recent study, fifth graders were asked to solve mathematics problems requiring the creation of word problems, explanation of mathematical operations, solution of problems involving estimation, or comprehension of number concepts and operations.13 Japanese students were among the top performers on all of the problems. Similarly, observational studies of Japanese classrooms reveal teachers who present interesting lessons in remarkably well organized ways. Far from emphasizing rote learning and drill, the lessons encourage a conceptual, problem-solving approach to learning. The observations were made in mathematics classes, but they also characterize the teaching that occurs in other elementary school subjects.14 At the same time, it is important to note that Japanese elementary education has its own problems and challenges. For example, TIMSS data ranked the United States 11th and Japan
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Engineering Education Tasks for the New Century: Japanese and U.S. Perspectives 33rd in emphasis on the use of science in the real world. Monbusho has made curriculum changes to promote more active involvement of students in examining science and its role in community issues.15 Japanese parents and educators worry that the procedures for entrance to college place too much stress on high school students and deprive them of experiences that are appropriate for their level of development. 16 Thus far, the most common response to this problem has been the adoption of the recommendation method for gaining entrance to colleges and universities.17 More recently there has been a great deal of interest in kosei kyoiku, which is often translated as “individualized education.” It is an attempt to encourage high schools to make their curricula more flexible so that the schools can do a better job of meeting the individual interests, abilities, and needs of the students. What is meant by kosei kyoiku remains vague and educators are unclear about what individualized education would encompass. Discussions of kosei kyoiku are important, however, for they signal an awareness among Japanese educators of a need for greater flexibility in the structure of education in Japan. This movement is supplemented by a recent interest in life-long learning, whereby education is considered to be a process continuing throughout life, rather than terminating upon graduation from high school or college. Due to the stronger local orientation of U.S. education, there are no national guidelines “for grouping students, or for determining the level of instruction or kind of course work in which students should be enrolled.”18 Generally, there is no segregation of students into different schools by ability level, although the popularity of magnet and other specialty schools has increased in recent years. U.S. schools appear to be much more inclined than Japanese schools to group students by ability within schools and to utilize other related practices such as retention of a child in a grade and organizing special programs for gifted and talented students. In elementary schools, ability grouping is more likely to be within the same class, especially in reading, while junior and senior high schools use other approaches. In senior high school, where Japanese students tend to be grouped according to their school, U.S. students are likely to be grouped within a school according to tracks or separate programs of instruction (such as general course and college preparation). Some U.S. ability grouping approaches are designed to minimize social class distinctions. The widespread use of ability grouping in the United States reflects a common belief that student abilities are relatively fixed, and that students learn best when grouped with students of similar abilities. 19 The belief that exceptional learners should be allowed to proceed at an accelerated pace and that contact with brighter peers might be a detriment to less capable students contrasts sharply with the Japanese beliefs and practices outlined above. Research into the actual impacts of ability grouping on enhancing or hindering student performance are inconclusive.20 Despite the common utilization of ability grouping in the United States, the high percentage of students from lower ability groups who go on to community and four-year colleges illustrates a significant degree of overall flexibility in the U.S. system. The role of school in the lives of young people also appears to be quite different in the two countries. American elementary and secondary students generally spend less time in school than students in other countries, including Japan, and much of the time spent in school is not spent in class.21 U.S. high school students also spend much more time socializing with peers and in paid employment than they do studying outside of class. Extracurricular activities also play a role in student life in the two countries. Kurabu and bu (clubs or circles), for example, two types of extracurricular activities, amplify opportunities for learning in Japan.22 Participation in kurabu is required of all elementary school students in grades four to six and of all middle school and high school students. Participation in bu is generally optional. Kurabu serve many purposes. The overall goals are to foster students' creativity, cooperative behavior, and self-direction. From kurabu activities students are expected to acquire attitudes of being self-directed and spontaneous, to interact more easily with adults including their teacher, to cultivate interest in subject matters other than those taught in regular classes, and to integrate
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Engineering Education Tasks for the New Century: Japanese and U.S. Perspectives intellectual, moral, and physical aspects of development. The most common types of kurabu are calligraphy, photography, music, sports, art, tea ceremony, Japanese chess, handicrafts, and flower arranging. Other less popular, but important topics for potential engineers and scientists are kurabu that allow students to conduct experiments in various areas of science. Extracurricular activities play an important role in counterbalancing the more rigid national curricula. Most extracurricular activities deal with topics not included in the national curricula.23 Extracurricular activities are important for American students, as they are for Japanese students, although there are differences in the role that they play. In contrast to the requirement in Japan that fifth grade students participate in at least one activity, participation in extracurricular activities in the United States is not widespread until junior high school.24 For U.S. students of junior high school age, there appears to be a wide variation in the opportunities available according to where they live.25 Overall, sports appear to be the most common extracurricular activities for junior and senior high school students, with participation rates of over fifty percent. Although U.S. schools do not teach teamwork as explicitly as Japanese schools, participation in sports is a mechanism for teaching students to work together. An important trend in recent years is the growing involvement in athletics by young women in the United States. This may have future implications for greater utilization of women in various aspects of American life, including engineering. Teaching Two steps are required in order to become a qualified teacher in Japan. The candidate must first enroll in an institution of higher education accredited by Monbusho and must take the necessary courses for teacher certification. Meeting this requirement provides eligibility for taking the qualifying test administered by each prefecture or city.26 The test includes an evaluation of the candidate's knowledge, a test for suitability as a teacher, essay tests, interviews, tests of practical skills, and a health examination. Those who pass these requirements are qualified to teach in that prefecture. However, this does not necessarily mean that a position will be available for each qualified candidate. In fact, among college graduates in 1996 who received teachers' certificates, only 7 percent were actually hired as teachers. This is roughly the same percentage that has existed for the past several years. It is not assumed that graduation from a university and the brief period of practice teaching during the undergraduate years provide adequate training for teachers. Rather, teaching is believed to be a matter of continuous learning, characterized by teachers sharing information and techniques with their colleagues and by participating in workshops and seminars in subject areas and in teaching techniques conducted by experts. New teachers are assigned a light teaching load during the first year of teaching so they can benefit from attendance at teacher training programs held outside the school and from the mentoring by a skilled teacher assigned to them within the school. Thus, even though the new teacher may lack knowledge in certain aspects of science or mathematics, efforts are made to enhance the teacher's ability to meet the requirements for being a good teacher. This model is much like that of other professions, such as medicine or law, where a good deal of the practical information necessary for the professional occurs in the professional setting of the hospital or court, rather than in classrooms in schools of medicine or law. In their emphasis on continued investments in teacher training, Japanese schools are similar to corporations and other Japanese organizations. Another familiar feature of Japanese management also found in education is regular job rotation. It is unusual for teachers or administrators to spend more than four or five years at any one public school, and teachers often move with their pupils to the next grade, sometimes for two years and sometimes for three. Administrators are taken from the ranks of teachers. Although class size is generally much higher in Japan than in the United States, Japanese teachers have much more time than their U.S.
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Engineering Education Tasks for the New Century: Japanese and U.S. Perspectives colleagues to spend on planning, course development and professional development.27 Further, the ratio of teachers to non-teaching staff in Japan is much higher than in the United States.28 As indicated by the relatively low placement rate for certified teachers, teaching is a high status occupation in Japan. It is difficult to determine average levels of compensation, for the regular salary is supplemented in many different ways, depending upon the status and needs of the individual. All teachers receive a 12-month salary and two additional bonuses which total about five months' salary. Further, allowances are made if the teacher must serve in a remote area, if the teacher provides special services, if the teacher is involved in vocational training, and if the teacher meets numerous other qualifications. Medical insurance, a retirement plan, low interest loans, and investment of savings are provided by the school system. These liberal financial rewards account in part for a high level of the individuals who are attracted to the teaching profession. The status of teachers is enhanced by the prestige and respect that are accorded to teachers in Japan. Japanese parents consider education to be the major means of access to a good life, and thereby entrust their children's futures to their teachers. As a result of this important role in Japanese society, the term sensei carries with it a strong sense of admiration and esteem. This role is granted, not only because of the importance placed on being a teacher, but also because Japanese teachers are known for their hard work and ability, devotion to children, and their concern for doing a good job. In the United States, standards and requirements for the preparation of teachers vary by state and school district, with no national consensus on the knowledge or skills necessary for teaching.29 Schools of education play an important role in preparing U.S. teachers. These evolved from the “normal schools” which originated in the mid-1800s to train prospective teachers at public elementary schools, who at that time were predominantly female and generally entered training having completed elementary school. Normal schools evolved into teachers' colleges and state colleges early in this century and many have since attained university status.30 At the same time that normal schools were developing, universities began establishing departments of education, aimed at training high school teachers and school administrators. The nearly 1,300 teacher education programs that exist today in the United States are highly diverse in terms of size, targeted student base, and other factors. A common route to teaching is the baccalaureate in education, in which two years of a general liberal arts curriculum are followed by a specialized education program of course work and student teaching. There are also extended programs, many offering masters degrees, which allow students to pursue majors in non-education fields. Most states have also adopted alternative certification programs, which provide on-the-job training and supplemental classes to college graduates in order to expand the number of potential teachers. Although one thrust of the education reform movement beginning in the 1980s has been to promote the professionalization of teaching through the expansion of graduate teacher training programs, the undergraduate education degree remains the most common route to entering the profession. A high proportion of secondary school math and science teachers did not major in their teaching specialties.31 It appears, however, that efforts to raise the standards for entering undergraduate education programs, through establishing minimum grade point averages and other requirements, have made some headway. The gap in SAT (Scholastic Aptitude Test) scores between education majors and the national average narrowed significantly during the 1980s.32 Certification requirements and procedures also vary by state. Although the standard method of teacher certification had been through school accreditation—graduates of programs accredited by the state were automatically certified—there has been a growing movement in recent years toward increased use of competency testing, including testing for certification at the state level. A number of education researchers and others have pointed out that isolation of teachers in the classroom is one of the prominent aspects of teaching in the United States. This is due to the large number of hours that U.S. teachers are required to teach and the general lack of opportunities for informal collegiality and mentoring.33 Particularly when compared with the
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Engineering Education Tasks for the New Century: Japanese and U.S. Perspectives Japanese system, where support for the professionalization of teaching appears to be central to the management of K-12 education, it is clear that the United States faces special challenges in creating teaching and educational environments that adequately prepare students both for the initial stages of engineering training and for active and productive participation as citizens in a society where technology increasingly impacts on everyday life. Despite an increased focus in recent years on improving standards and training for teachers, the adequacy of teacher preparation and skills is still a serious issue in the United States. This is particularly true in fields that have experienced shortages of teachers, math and science among them.34 ISSUES AND CHALLENGES RELATED TO ENGINEERING EDUCATION In this section, we will review some of the prominent issues and challenges facing K-12 education in both the United States and Japan, with emphasis on their implications for engineering education more broadly. Overall Performance of the K-12 System in Mathematics and Science Overall performance, or the effectiveness of the educational system in helping students develop the skills and capabilities necessary for educational and career advancement, has been a major concern of the United States for more than a decade. Standardized tests taken by students have been used to measure performance, but have a number of drawbacks, particularly in cases where the utilization of test results for policy decisions encourages a focus on rote memorization, or where the establishment of minimum standards ensures that more students reach the standard but fewer go beyond it. However, activities such as the National Assessment of Educational Progress (NAEP), which has many items that go beyond multiple choice and short answer exams, and international comparative studies do provide measurements of student achievement that serve as rough gauges to assess overall performance and allow for the tracking of trends over time. Over the years, international comparative studies have documented the poor performance of the U.S. K-12 education system relative to other nations with similar economic development levels in mathematics and science education, and have also highlighted the superior performance of Japan (Figure 2-2).35 NAEP results over time are shown in Tables 2-3 and 2-4. Tables 2-5 and 2-6 indicate that more U.S. students are persisting in math and science through their high school years. Still, a continuation of the general pattern in which a large percentage of U.S. students only achieves basic math and science skills, and where the achievement of top U.S. students matches only the average level of students in Japan and other high achieving countries has clear negative implications for the future ability of the United States to maintain its leadership in research and high technology.36 Some of the performance gap is probably connected with how math and science are taught in the United States and elsewhere. In Japan, the mathematics curriculum continues a linear approach throughout all years of school; that is, a new topic is not introduced until the prior topic has been mastered. This is in contrast with a spiral curriculum generally used in the United States, where topics are revisited year after year, presumably at a higher level of development. During the 1960s and 1970s, significant resources were devoted to developing new curricula in the United States, with the “new math” being particularly prominent. These efforts were followed by severe drops in student performance as measured by standardized tests. Although other factors and trends were also implicated in this drop, curriculum reform efforts did lose some credibility, and lessons from this experience are being incorporated into ongoing efforts to
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Engineering Education Tasks for the New Century: Japanese and U.S. Perspectives Figure 2-2 Average percent correct on TIMSS science general knowledge achievement, 1994–1995. NOTE: The final year of secondary school comparison is not made since there are no Japan data posted in TIMSS for this level of students. SOURCE: Third International Mathematics and Science Study. TABLE 2-3 Trends in Average Mathematics Proficiency, U.S. Students 9-year-olds 13-year-olds 17-year-olds 1973 219 266 304 1978 219 264 300 1982 219 269 299 1986 222 269 302 1990 230 270 305 1992 230 273 307 1994 231 274 306 1996 231 274 307 NOTE: These test scores, ranging from 0 to 500, are from the National Assessment of Educational Progress. The breakdown of scores and level of performance are: 150-knowledge of basic addition and subtraction. 200-understanding of two-digit numbers and knowledge of basic multiplication and division facts. 250-initial understanding of the four basic operations and ability to compare information from graphs and charts. 300-ability to compute decimals, simple fractions, and percents; knowledge of geometric figures; and development of skills to operate with signed numbers, exponents, and square roots. 350-ability to apply a range of reasoning skills to solve multistep problems and solve routine problems involving fractions and percents; recognition of properties of basic geometric figures; and ability to work with exponents and square roots. SOURCE: U.S. Department of Education, National Center for Education Statistics.
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Engineering Education Tasks for the New Century: Japanese and U.S. Perspectives TABLE 2-4 Percentage of U.S. Students At or Above Selected Science Proficiency Levels 9-Year-Olds 13-Year-Olds 17-Year-Olds Knows every day science facts Understands simple scientific principles Applies general scientific information Analyzes scientific procedures and data Understands simple scientific principles Applies general scientific information Analyzes scientific procedures and data Integrates specialized scientific information Understands simple scientific principles Applies general scientific information Analyzes scientific procedures and data Integrates specialized scientific information 1977 93.5 68.0 25.7 3.2 86.0 48.8 11.1 0.7 97.1 81.6 41.7 8.5 1982 95.2 70.7 24.3 2.3 89.8 50.9 9.6 0.4 95.7 76.6 37.3 7.1 1986 96.2 72.0 27.5 3.0 91.6 52.5 9.1 0.2 97.1 80.7 41.3 7.9 1990 97.0 76.4 31.1 3.1 92.3 56.5 11.2 0.4 96.7 81.2 43.3 9.2 1992 97.4 78.0 32.8 3.4 93.1 61.3 12.0 0.2 97.8 83.3 46.6 10.1 1994 97.2 77.4 33.7 3.8 92.4 59.5 11.8 0.2 97.1 83.1 47.5 10.0 1996 96.8 76.0 32.4 4.4 92.2 57.7 12.3 0.4 97.8 83.6 48.5 10.8 SOURCE: U.S. Department of Education, National Center for Education Statistics.
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Engineering Education Tasks for the New Century: Japanese and U.S. Perspectives improve K-12 math and science education.37 Rather than a centralized, top-down approach, many current U.S. education efforts focus on collaboration between various national private sector organizations and local educators and officials.38 There is some cause to be optimistic about the prospects for U.S. education reform efforts, since there appears to be widespread recognition of the problem and long-term focus on problem-solving.39 However, some education researchers believe that a number of the factors underlying the international gaps in student achievement between the United States and other countries are closely linked to attitudes and beliefs among the American public at large, implying that more fundamental changes will be necessary.40 TABLE 2-5 Percentage of U.S. High School Graduates Taking Selected Mathematics and Science Courses in High School 1982 1987 1990 1994 Algebra 53.9 64.0 64.2 66.4 Geometry 45.5 59.7 63.4 70.4 Calculus 4.6 6.0 6.5 9.2 Biology 76.4 87.8 91.3 93.5 Chemistry 30.9 43.7 49.0 56.0 Physics 14.2 19.2 21.5 24.4 Earth Sciences 13.2 14.5 24.8 23.0 SOURCE: U.S. Department of Education, National Center for Education Statistics. TABLE 2-6 Percentage of U.S. High School Graduates Earning Minimum Credits in Selected Combinations of Academic Courses 1982 1987 1990 1994 4 English/3 social science/3 science/3 math/0.5 computer science/2 foreign language 2.0 12.1 18.3 25.3 4 English/3 social science/3 science/3 math/0.5 computer science 2.9 16.6 23.3 32.0 4 English/3 social science/3 science/3 math/2 foreign language 9.2 20.6 30.3 39.1 4 English/3 social science/3 science/3 math 14.0 27.9 38.8 49.8 4 English/3 social science/2 science/2 math 31.5 54.0 66.5 74.6 SOURCE: U.S. Department of Education, National Center for Education Statistics.
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Engineering Education Tasks for the New Century: Japanese and U.S. Perspectives Developing New Approaches to Improved Performance What positive impact can this U.S.-Japan joint task force study have on addressing the serious challenges that will continue to face U.S. math and science education? Although this study is concerned with engineering education in a broad sense, the U.S. working group believes that Japanese practices and experiences are quite relevant to current U.S. conditions, and that there is greater scope for learning from Japan to improve U.S. K-12 education in math and science than is commonly believed. The U.S. working group believes that several points are worth emphasizing. First, in the area of basic orientation and philosophy, the Japanese experience shows that U.S. beliefs about education put too much weight on the innate ability of students in determining the area of study. As other groups have pointed out, a fundamental reorientation of the U.S. approach to math and science education is required—one that results in the majority of students acquiring what are currently considered “advanced” skills. Second, as current U.S. education reform efforts illustrate, significant change in a system as large and basic to society as education can be undertaken only through long-term broadly based efforts. In the area of learning from Japan, however, the U.S. working group believes that particular focus should be placed on the preparation of teachers and the practice of teaching, an area in which Japan excels and where improvements in the United States could have a major impact. A U.S.-Japan exchange on the practice of science and mathematics teaching, focused on exploring new approaches to the initial preparation of teachers, on-the-job training and mentoring of beginning teachers, and career-long enhancement of knowledge and skills, could help leverage and inform ongoing efforts in both countries. Promoting Interest in Engineering and Technical Careers Concerns have been raised in both Japan and the United States over whether primary and secondary education adequately encourages students to enter careers in science and engineering. Japan's attention to this question has been more focused in recent years.41 Japanese observers have pointed to several trends, including a drop-off in the number of student applicants to enroll in engineering faculties in recent years, survey data which shows that young adults in their twenties may be less interested in scientific and technological issues and a decrease in the number of Japanese engineering graduates finding employment in manufacturing industries. Combined with larger social and demographic trends that are frequently the subject of discussion in Japan, such as the aging of the population and the low birthrate, indications that younger people might be losing interest in science and technology appear to have fed concerns about whether Japan's scientific and engineering human resources will be adequate to sustain the nation's status as a leader in research and high technology. Figures 2-3 and 2-4 show K-12 enrollment trends in the United States and Japan. The Japanese working group believes that the issue of younger people losing interest in science and technology is undoubtedly the most serious problem common to both the United States and Japan. Another issue of concern for both countries is attracting female students to engineering. “Technology in Education” and “Education About Technology” Another important issue in K-12 education for future engineers is teaching about and applying advances in technology. This encompasses two aspects. The first is the use of technology as an aid for teaching and learning. The second aspect is engineering and technology as subjects of K-12 education. In recent years, a number of advanced technologies, particularly personal computers, have become widely available in U.S. and Japanese schools. Although the diffusion of computers in
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Engineering Education Tasks for the New Century: Japanese and U.S. Perspectives FIGURE 2-3 Total K-12 enrollment in Japan. SOURCE: Japan Ministry of Education, Science and Culture. FIGURE 2-4 K-12 enrollment in the United States. SOURCE: U.S. Department of Education, National Center for Education Statistics.
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Engineering Education Tasks for the New Century: Japanese and U.S. Perspectives schools occurred sooner in the United States, Japan is currently making large investments. According to a recent annual survey conducted by Monbusho, as of March 1994, for example, 66 percent of Japanese elementary schools, 98 percent of junior high schools and 100 percent of high schools were equipped with computers.42 Monbusho reportedly planned to spend $2.6 billion on installing more computers in elementary and junior high schools over the 1994–2000 period.43 Although members of the U.S. working group observed computers being used in science class demonstrations during a visit to a Japanese high school in June 1994, it appears that the main goal of large Japanese investments in this area is to raise computer and keyboard literacy among young people by making computers available for use outside of class, rather than aggressive integration of advanced technologies into actual classroom instruction. In the United States, there is growing interest in how new technologies can be utilized to full advantage in K-12 education.44 Although this issue is not a particular focus of the joint task force study, how new technologies are applied in the classroom will undoubtedly have an important impact on K-12 education for future engineers. 45 Information technology could also be utilized to improve U.S.-Japan interaction and learning among students and educators. Technology as a subject of learning in K-12 education is more central to the concerns of the joint task force, even though a detailed examination of this fast-moving subject was not possible to undertake.46 In both countries technology is rarely mentioned in K-12 curricula, and when it does appear it is as an incidental part of science education. In both the United States and Japan, there is increasing interest in technology education. For example, U.S. science education standards feature technology content.47 As part of efforts to increase interest among Japanese young people in pursuing scientific and engineering careers, Japanese universities and research institutions are developing a number of new programs in collaboration with primary and secondary schools to increase student exposure to science and technology. This is an issue where continued U.S.-Japan dialogue and exchange can have a positive influence on the individual efforts of the two countries. NOTES AND REFERENCES 1 Harold W. Stevenson and James W. Stigler, The Learning Gap (New York: Touchstone, 1992) provides the basic background. The Third International Mathematics and Science Study (TIMSS), which was recently completed, involved collection of data on half a million students from 41 countries, and is the largest, most comprehensive, and most rigorous international study of schools and students ever. The National Center for Education Statistics website is a useful starting point for finding out about TIMSS (http://nces.ed.gov/TIMSS/). 2 Roberta Nerison-Low, “The Educational Structure of the U.S. School System,” in U.S. Department of Education, The Educational System of the United States: Case Study Findings (Washington, D.C.: U.S. Government Printing Office, forthcoming). 3 Japan requires attendance until age fifteen. 4 Nerison-Low, op. cit. 5 Monbusho, Development of Education in Japan. (Tokyo: Monbusho, 1992). 6 Efforts to develop national education standards in the United States are described below. 7 Japanese working group members believe that Japanese high school students have sufficient information, but their primary focus in using this information is on the university entrance examinations, covered in Chapter 3. 8 Nerison-Low, op. cit. 9 National Research Council, National Science Education Standards (Washington, D.C.: National Academy Press, 1996).
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Engineering Education Tasks for the New Century: Japanese and U.S. Perspectives 10 In theory, it is possible for Japanese students pursuing an arts curriculum to decide late in their high school careers to gain admittance to an engineering school, but in practice this occurs very rarely due to the difficulty of the university entrance examination. 11 Ministry of Education, Science and Culture, Government Policies in Education, Science and Culture (Tokyo: Ministry of Finance Printing Bureau, 1989), p. 25. 12 Ibid., p. 26. 13 James W. Stigler, S.Y. Lee and Harold W. Stevenson, Mathematical Knowledge of Japanese, Chinese and American Children (Reston, Va.: National Council of Teachers of Mathematics, 1990). 14 S.Y. Lee, T.A. Graham and Harold W. Stevenson, “Teachers and Teaching: Elementary Schools in Japan and the United States” in Thomas Rohlen and G. LeTendre, eds., Teaching and Learning in Japan (New York: Cambridge University Press, forthcoming). 15 Japan Ministry of Education, Science and Culture, Japanese Government Policies in Education, Science and Culture 1994, (Tokyo: Printing Bureau, Ministry of Finance, 1995). 16 Hidetaka Shimizu, “Individual Differences and the Japanese Education System,” in U.S. Department of Education, The Educational System in Japan: Case Study Findings (Washington, D.C.: U.S. Government Printing Office, 1998). 17 A more detailed examination of issues related to university entrance is given in Chapter 3. 18 Heidi Schweingruber, “The Perception of Ability Differences in U.S. Education,” in U.S. Department of Education, The Educational System of the United States: Case Study Findings (Washington, D.C.: U.S. Government Printing Office, forthcoming). 19 Schweingruber, op. cit. 20 Ibid. 21 Andrew Fuligni, “Secondary Education in the Life of American Adolescents,” unpublished manuscript. 22 A discussion of juku, yobiko and other education outside of school is included in Chapter 3. 23 A more detailed discussion of the utilization of technology in schools appears later in this chapter. 24 In addition, participation by U.S. students in organized activities not related to school, such as scouting and youth sports, is fairly common. 25 Fuligni, op. cit. 26 This requirement is only for public school and does not apply to private schools. 27 It is estimated that Japanese teachers spend about 40 percent of their time at school in non-instructional pursuits. 28 For 1991, the Japanese ratio was calculated as 2.19, while the U.S. ratio for 1990 was 1.22. Considering the larger class sizes in Japan, this seemingly small administrative overhead is even more impressive. 29 Barbara K. Hofer, “Teachers' Training and Teachers' Lives in the United States,” in U.S. Department of Education, The Educational System of the United States: Case Study Findings (Washington, D.C.: U.S. Government Printing Office, forthcoming). 30 Ibid. 31 As of 1993, 41 percent of U.S. mathematics teachers in grades 9–12 nationwide had majored in mathematics or science, while 63 percent of science teachers in the same grade levels had majored in science or mathematics. See National Science Board, Science and Engineering Indicators, 1998 (Washington, D.C.: U.S. Government Printing Office, 1998), p. 1–24. 32 Hofer, op. cit. 33 Ibid. 34 A 1989 report estimated that over half of the 200,000 secondary school teachers of mathematics in the United States did not meet current professional standards for teaching mathematics, and that only 10 percent of elementary school teachers met contemporary standards for teaching mathematics. See National Research Council, Everybody Counts: A Report to the Nation on the Future of Mathematics Education (Washington, D.C.: National Academy Press, 1989), p. 28. 35 See TIMSS web site, op. cit.
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Engineering Education Tasks for the New Century: Japanese and U.S. Perspectives 36 Leaders of U.S. industry, academia, and government cited K-12 education as the most serious problem affecting U.S. competitiveness, (MIT Forum on Competitiveness, 1997). 37 National Research Council, Everybody Counts, op. cit., pp. 78–79. 38 National Research Council, National Science Education Standards, op. cit. 39 Although the federal government is not the primary source of support for primary and secondary education in the United States, federal investments in efforts to improve pre K-12 science, mathematics, engineering, and technology education totaled $770 million in 1993. See Committee on Education and Human Resources, Federal Coordinating Council for Science, Engineering and Technology, The Federal Investment in Science, Mathematics, Engineering and Technology Education: Where Now? What Next? (Arlington, Va.: National Science Foundation, 1993). 40 National Science Board., op. cit. 41 The issue was featured in Kagaku Gijutsu-cho (Science and Technology Agency), Heisei Go Nenban Kagaku Gijutsu Hakusho, Wakamono to Kagaku Gijutsu (Science and Technology White Paper 1993: The Relationship Between Young People and Science and Technology), (Tokyo: Okurasho Insatsukyoku, 1993). 42 The Monbusho survey is summarized in U.S. National Science Foundation Tokyo Office, “Computers at Japanese Public Primary and Secondary Schools,” Report Memorandum 95-12, May 15, 1995. 43 Neil Gross, “A Game of Catch-Up,” Business Week, Annual special issue, 1994, p. 38. 44 For example, President's Committee of Advisors on Science and Technology, Report to the President on the Use of Technology to Strengthen K-12 Education in the United States, March 1997 and U.S. Congress, Office of Technology Assessment, Teachers and Technology: Making the Connection (Washington, D.C.: U.S. Government Printing Office, 1995). In addition to exploring the issues related to using technology in the classroom setting and adequate training for teachers, one of the latter report's main areas of focus is how teachers can utilize technology to enhance professional growth and exchange. 45 A recent report calls for increased investment in technology for K-12 education in the United States. See President's Committee of Advisors on Science and Technology, op. cit. However some experts are skeptical that such investments would make a significant contribution, even if resources were available. See comments by Bruce Alberts and Wm. A. Wulf in National Research Council, Harnessing Science and Technology for America's Economic Future (Washington, D.C.: National Academy Press, 1999). 46 See http://www.nae.edu for an overview of some of the issues and related initiatives of the National Academy of Engineering. 47 National Research Council, National Science Education Standards, op. cit.
Representative terms from entire chapter: