PCAST Report Recommends Action to Increase Number of STEM Graduates
PCAST Report Recommends Action to Increase Number of STEM Graduates
February 2012

The President’s Council of Advisors on Science and Technology (PCAST) issued a report on February 7 with five recommendations to President Obama to increase the number of STEM graduates by one million in the next decade to meet projected employment needs. These graduates would fill not only traditional STEM jobs but also “STEM-capable” jobs, or non-STEM positions that require STEM skills.

The report, Engage to Excel, focuses on the first two years of postsecondary education, wherein nearly 60% of students intending to graduate with a STEM degree switch to a non-STEM major. Decreasing this percentage by 10 percentage points, according to the report, would help reach the goal of one million additional STEM graduates. Potential STEM graduates also include students with a strong interest in STEM but with low mathematics proficiency. This group accounts for 12% of 12th graders.

The report cites three factors that contribute to a student’s likelihood of matriculating in a STEM field: intellectual engagement and achievement, motivation, and identification in the field. The report recommends improving the teaching of STEM through increasing engagement, providing tools to help students succeed, and diversifying pathways into STEM.

The five recommendations are as follows:
  • Catalyze widespread adoption of empirically validated teaching practices;
  • Advocate and provide support for replacing standard laboratory courses with discovery-based courses;
  • Launch a national experiment in postsecondary mathematics education to address the math preparation gap;
  • Encourage partnerships among stakeholders to diversify pathways to STEM careers; and
  • Create a Presidential Council on STEM Education.
Specific actions to support these recommendations are detailed in the report.

PCAST consists of scientists and engineers who advise the White House in the fields of science and technology, particularly in the context of economic growth and innovation. This report follows up on a September 2010 report that included recommendations to improve K-12 STEM education.
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