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Not as Easy as it Sounds

The President's Council of Advisors on Science and Technology recently published a new report with seemingly simple recommendations to improve the state of science education in the US, reports ScienceInsider's Jeffrey Mervis. But educators say the recommendations are deceptively simple, and will actually be challenging to implement. PCAST's report says improving undergraduate education in STEM fields is a matter of making introductory courses more interesting and more active, and helping students find jobs in science and engineering, among other suggestions, Mervis says. However, the implementation of these recommendations will require changes in academic culture, according to experts.

"Education reformers say one of their biggest hurdles is an academic culture that prizes research over teaching and that traditionally has been geared more toward weeding out rather than attracting students into majoring in STEM fields," Mervis says. "In addition, the current system of US higher education, including community colleges and 4-year institutions as well as those offering graduate degrees in STEM fields, is so vast that it is inherently resistant to change."

The authors of the report say that their recommendations, if implemented, could result in a million additional students graduating with STEM degrees. In accordance with this report, the Obama administration has proposed spending $60 million on research into the best approaches to improve science and math education in the US, Mervis adds.

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