STEM stands for Science, Technology, Engineering, and Mathematics. Recent studies have shown that America’s students are falling behind in STEM disciplines and are also far less interested in STEM than their international peers. This can be evidenced by a report entitled “Prepare and Inspire: K-12 Education in Science, Technology, Engineering, and Math (STEM) for America’s Future” that was issued in September, 2010 by the President’s Council of Advisors on Science and Technology. This reports cites the following facts:
* On the National Assessment of Educational Progress, less than one-third of U.S. eighth graders show proficiency in mathematics and science.
* Only about a third of bachelor’s degrees earned in the United States are in a STEM field, compared with approximately 53 percent of first university degrees earned in China, and 63 percent of those earned in Japan.
* More than half of the science and engineering graduate students in U.S. universities are from outside the United States.
The good news is that efforts are underway to improve the state of STEM education in the United States. According to the Academic Competitiveness Council’s (ACC) May 2007 report, in 2006 the federal government sponsored 105 Science, Technology, Engineering and Math (STEM) education programs at a dozen different Federal Agencies. These programs devoted approximately $3.12 billion to STEM education activities spanning pre-kindergarten through postgraduate education and outreach. In addition, hundreds of millions of dollars are spent by state governments, foundations, to improve STEM as well. All of this activity creates tremendous opportunity for local schools and non-profit organizations to pursue grant funding for new and existing STEM initiatives.