If we can institute more policies to make STEM education within our higher education system more inclusive, we can assume that this diversity will make STEM attractive to minority students. In order for policy makers to know where to begin with minority students, they need to know what is preventing them from getting a good STEM education, what factors have contributed to minorities who are successful in this field and what can be done to improve student's interest and success in STEM. There are a number of factors which can prevent minorities' access to a STEM education. School funding is one of the biggest obstacles. From an economic perspective, more funding is poured into the schools in wealthier neighborhoods than in poor neighborhoods. This means that the schools in wealthier districts will have more opportunities at a better education than students in the poorer districts ("Factors in K-12 Education," 2011).
Low funding in these school districts is something that the parents and the community as a whole must fight against. There is always strength in numbers and concerned parents need to ban together and demand that their school district receives just as much funding as schools in wealthier districts. All children deserve a chance at a good education, no matter what their economic status is. It is up to policy makers to see to it that schools are funded equally, no matter what district they fall in. This way, the field can begin to be leveled giving everyone the chance they deserve.
Minorities who have been successful in careers involving STEM education usually have parents that were very involved in molding and shaping their child's natural interests in these subjects. Also, if a minority child can find a person who is already in the field that they can identify with or who can serve as their mentor, they are more likely to succeed throughout their college years. These children do not necessarily have to identify with someone from the same racial group or background they belong to. This would be ideal, but the most important thing is that the mentor shows genuine concern and is truly interested in mentoring the student.
Not only can students find motivation and encouragement outside of the home from mentors, once they reach college level their peers can become an important source of support. It is important to realize that the support should not end once the student has reached college. Instead, this is where students will begin to form social circles and lasting relationships based on their chosen field of study. They usually find that they share many common interests with other STEM students and this provides encouragement for them to continue with their programs instead of dropping out of school altogether or changing majors. It is in college where these minority students can join organizations and network with other STEM students. They are awarded to opportunity sometimes to become teaching assistants or to interact with STEM alumni who can share insight on STEM careers. Minorities along with other STEM students have the opportunity in college to meet STEM professionals who can guide them in their career choices (Palmer et al., 2011).
Palmer et al. also states that there a several major universities and colleges throughout the United States that work with high schools to develop STEM programs. These programs include summer learning, workshops and tutoring to prepare students for a STEM education in college (2011). These programs can also work as encouragement for minority students who were interested in STEM, but did not feel adequate or comfortable studying it. Programs like these are important because they help students to apply for and successfully complete a STEM education in college.
We know that not all students will excel in STEM programs. When asking a young child what they want to be when they grow up, a variety of answers will be given. Just as schools have music programs and dance programs to promote the arts, they should also have STEM programs to better promote the sciences. If STEM education is not present in the school, then there is no awareness by the students that these types of programs exist. They should also be made aware of the types of careers they can have by studying STEM courses. So many children are fascinated on field trips to museums of science, planetarium, aquariums, and natural history, but for most of them the curiosity stops once the field trip has ended. Teachers have an obligation to promote STEM just as they do other areas of study.
While it is true that policy makers can do more to promote STEM education in our schools, everyone must play their part. Policy makers have the responsibility of making sure that each child, no matter what school district they may be from, has access to a quality STEM education. They must also ensure that this type of learning begins at a young age and that those students showing promise in this area are provided with the resources they need in order to excel. Resources can be in the form of qualified teachers and Stem libraries in school, among other things.
Parents play an important part in making sure their children receive a quality STEM education also. It is not enough to hope that their child gets through the mandatory math and science courses. They should take notice if their child is especially interested in science or computers, or finding out how things work. If their child shows an aptitude for math, they should encourage those skills. This is especially true for little girls and minority children. A STEM education should not be seen as something that only a certain group of people can attain. It must be made accessible to all.
If policy makers do not do more to promote STEM education among the nation's youth, we can be assured that this country will slowly but surely no longer be seen as a top contender economically. Careers requiring a STEM education can be seen as elite jobs because even though there is a shortage of individuals properly trained to take on these careers, the overall number of these jobs is still small. The United States is not ranked number one or even number two in STEM. Many say that we are ranked third and some even say this country is in fourth place when it comes to STEM. We may not think this is important because we have other issue to tackle such as healthcare, unemployment, poverty and various other pressing issues. And while we know we have to take care of the people that make up this country, we also have to constantly look at the world though a global lens in order to keep up with the technologies that make us competitive and help to boost the economy.
We do not want to find ourselves in a position of waiting on other countries to create new technologies to borrow from. We have to be seen as global leaders in these areas. If not, a country that was once considered number one will soon be viewed as second rate. People from other countries come to the United States by the thousands because of the many opportunities that are present. However, we need to ask ourselves if we are beginning to rest on our laurels. Policy makers have to realize that even though America may be one of the best countries in the world that it may not always remain this way. We can always do better and should always strive to do better.
We have made great strides in many areas. We have a good educational system, but we know it can be much better. We instituted policies to make sure that all children were receiving a quality education with the No Child Left Behind Act, and now we must take it a step further by promoting STEM education in all schools across the nation. It is unreasonable to think that No Child Left Behind is creating a nation of children who can compete educationally with other children from higher socioeconomic statuses. What this policy has done is bring children who are considered disadvantaged up to a level that they should be at. While this is a start, it must be seen as just that. In order to build a strong nation that is a major contender on the economic front, we must begin to cater to the needs of all citizens and not just the majority.
Once we put stronger policies in place, we are showing that we are indeed a country that is diverse and believes in opportunities for all. It is not wise to only focus on STEM education at the higher education level. By the time students reach this age, some will have had preparation and many will have not. Those that will not have the type of preparation to successfully compete college are more than likely minorities who…