NCPA - National Center for Policy Analysis

Increasing STEM Engagement with School Choice

December 12, 2014

Education reformers have recently turned their attention to STEM -- the academic disciplines of science, technology, engineering and mathematics -- because of a lack of STEM workers and a mismatch in STEM degree-holders in STEM fields. Today, there are 277,000 STEM job vacancies, and it is estimated that there could be 2.4 million STEM vacancies by 2018.  Moreover, the number of STEM degree-holders do not match up with actual employment data:

  • There are over 12.1 million STEM degree-holders in the United States, but STEM employment in 2012 was just 5.3 million.
  • Just one-third of employed native-born Americans with a STEM degree actually work in a STEM job.
  • Seventy-four percent of individuals with a STEM bachelor's degree are not employed in STEM occupations.

How can the United States tackle this problem? In a new report from the National Center for Policy Analysis, Senior Research Fellow Lloyd Bentsen contends that private school choice can increase student engagement in STEM subjects. Engagement in today's schools is a problem -- as a 2013 Gallup poll notes, 45 percent of students are not engaged or are "actively disengaged" while at school.

The current public education system uses a one-size-fits-all approach to teaching, which often results in disengaged, unmotivated students. Because students have a wide variety of learning styles and interests, Bentsen says that school choice would allow students to attend the schools that best fit their learning styles. If students could choose their schools, schools would have an incentive to compete in offering effective and engaging lessons, and schools could choose to specialize in certain areas or offer theme-based education (such as a sports-themed school) that would motivate students who might not succeed in a traditional learning environment.

Source: Lloyd Bentsen, "Engagement in STEM Education," National Center for Policy Analysis, December 2014.


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