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Study: Parents' Understanding Of STEM Education Low Throughout Pittsburgh Region

When surveying a room of teachers, parents, and students about the significance of STEM (Science, Technology, Engineering and Math) education, and the results can vary with a mixture of answers filled with uncertainty often dominating the conversation.

The Carnegie Science Center is trying to emphasize the impact of STEM learning through the results of a survey, “Work To Do: The Role of STEM Education in Improving the Tri-State Region’s Workforce.” 

The survey conducted by Campos, Inc. gauged the attitudes and perceptions about STEM education and its potential for workforce development in a 17-county area of southwestern PA, Ohio, and West Virginia.

Ron Ballie the co-director of Carnegie Science Center stressed the importance of basic science and math understanding by youth to prepare them for the workforce.

“We have basic job needs; there are 12,000 open positions in STEM fields-- everything from skilled plumbers and welders to four year degrees and master degrees in civic engineers-- and everything in between -- you name it their out there and we need to fill those positions,” said Baille.

The study surveyed educators, corporate leaders, and parents. The results indicated only 2 of 5 parents had ever heard of the term STEM, and many were apprehensive. But parents' underlying attitudes about education and careers do align with many STEM fundamentals.  

A.J. Drexel of Campos Inc. had parents identify what was most important to parents regarding their child’s education; critical thinking, respect, problem solving, and collaboration were among the top-- all principles of STEM. Yet the survey revealed parents struggling to identify how STEM would help their children succeed.

“They don’t know that those are the same principles, so they hear STEM, and they don’t understand it well enough to know that it is actually those important skills that they want their kids to have,” said Drexel.

STEM education focuses on an interdisciplinary and applied approach.

Today educators embarked on the “Carnegie STEM Excellence Program” which is an on-going process to strengthen STEM curricula in their districts. Ballie hopes this program will eliminate the myth around STEM education.

“The myth around STEM education is that it is going to cost you a lot more money, and we don’t have a lot more money—but that’s not really the case what we are talking about is a different way of doing education. There are districts represented that are very well resourced and others that are under resourced but they are all at the table because it’s about doing things differently not necessarily more expensively,” said Baillie.

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