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Crisis in undergraduate education.

Crisis in undergraduate education

Over the past decade, U.S. undergraduate programs offering science, engineering and math education have developed "serious problems, especially problems of quality," according to a March 21 report by the National Science Board for the National Science Foundation (NSF). "The deterioration, which was described as especially severe in engineering, represents "a grave long-term threat to the nation's scientific and technical capacity, its industrial and economic competitiveness and the strength of its national defense," the report says.

Laboratory instruction today, the board reports, is often "uninspired, tedious and dull" and conducted using instruments that are obsolete and inadequate. Moreover, the report says, essential lab courses are being dropped from many introductory courses in these fields. Adding to the problem, it notes, are faculty members who have not stayed abreast of changes in their field and courses that are not only out of date but also poorly organized and unimaginative.

These factors may account in part, the report says, for a growing decline in students pursuing careers in science, math and engineering; for the inability of many speciality disciplines to attract the number and quality of practitioners they need; and for the inadequate number of educators available to train the next generation of entrants in many fields. Finally, the study finds that financial support available for science, math and engineering education "is inadequately responsive to either its worsening condition or the national need for its revitalization and improvement."

The analysis concludes that although NSF cannot assume responsibility for the financial health of education in these areas, it can and should find ways to motivate state, local and private sources of aid. The report also recommends that NSF allocate an additional $100 million for undergraduate education programs, including $20 million toward improving laboratories and $30 million for the support of programs aimed at providing schools with better instructional equipment. Admitting this $100 million won't cure the schools' problems, the report says it should be enough "to cause truly significant, positive changes."
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Title Annotation:science, engineering and math education
Publication:Science News
Date:Apr 19, 1986
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