Early this year the state board of education voted unanimously to cut about 3 percent of the current fiscal year’s school budget, cutting public school funding by about $47 million. Funds for STEM or Science, Technology, Engineering and Math education initiatives were completely eliminated. Though these cuts seem demoralizing for students, parents and educators, every cloud has a silver lining. The storm hovering over the STEM education of our children does present a unique opportunity for community leaders, civic organizations, and all well-meaning citizens to step up and stand in the gap between our children and the impending STEM education crisis, by coming up with simple and temporary solutions until our elected officials enact a bill to mitigate the challenges facing our education system in Oklahoma.
Most parents are quite invested when it comes to dedicating resources and countless hours ushering our children to sport practices, summer camps and travel team competitions with no second thoughts at all. Our temporary recommendation and solution is that parents absolutely should stay the course with respect to engaging their children in sporting and other extracurricular activities, but should proactively assume a lead role in ensuring that the STEM education of their children is a priority in the child’s developmental mix.
Why STEM? In the 21st century STEM pervades all industries, from health care, agriculture, banking, oil, all entertainment and media platforms, and our military. Let’s take a second to ponder and think about that, and all of its implications. Our local, state and national economy and systems are all dependent on STEM. But, only 16 percent of our high school students nationally are proficient in mathematics and are interested in STEM careers per the U.S. Department of Education.
Where and how do we start? In its simplest form, with community support and engagement, we start by creating programs and projects in our communities, as modeled by the STEM Achievement Foundation or SAF programs to complement and supplement the meager STEM education provided by our public school systems handicapped by the limited education funding by the state. This will directly have an economic development impact, as we create new jobs and opportunities for STEM project directors, managers, trainers and instructors, on a full-time and part-time basis to serve and provide our elementary, middle and high school students the rudimentary STEM education needed to be relevant and successful in the 21st century.
Eyo Effiong is a STEM education advocate, and the president and founder of STEM Achievement Foundation or SAF, an Oklahoma-based nonprofit organization dedicated empowering the youth through a STEM focused education. Reach Effiong at 580-699-8933 or [email protected] or visit www.stemachievement.org.