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Technical Skills: The Importance of STEM Education

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Education—Did you know that in a 2006 international assessment of 15-year-old students, the U.S. ranked 28th in math literacy and 24th in science literacy? Or that the U.S. ranks 20th among all nations in the proportion of college students who earn degrees in natural science or engineering. "When compared with other nations, the math and science achievement of U.S. pupils and the rate of STEM (science, technology, engineering, and math) degree attainment appear inconsistent with a nation considered the world leader in scientific innovation."

The realization that we are slipping as a nation, not just financially but scientifically and mathematically, is something we've been experiencing over the past few years. The realization that we really need to do something about that is just now kicking in, if statistics recently released by PBS Kids is any indication.

According to Nielsen ratings, viewership of all PBS KIDS programs is up 23% among 2-11 year-olds this past season. PBS’ STEM-focused series Curious George, The Cat in the Hat Knows a Lot About That!, and Dinosaur Train ranked third, fifth, and sixth among 2-5-year-olds. PBSKIDS.org saw a 15% increase over last year in unique visitors, and has been the #1 kids site for free videos streamed. And PBS KIDS mobile apps have been downloaded over 1 million times.

“Years ago, we identified a gap in children’s media – there was very little content available for kids to build critical literacy and STEM skills – especially on TV,” said Lesli Rotenberg, senior vice president, Children’s Media, PBS.  “We saw this as an opportunity to develop great narratives grounded in core curricular areas. Since then, we’ve worked with the best producers in children’s programming to develop a lineup of preschool series that meet this need. And we’re seeing great results – it’s clear from our ratings that kids are responding to this content.”

As well they should. It is obvious from this data that parents have realized the need for the improvement of their children's STEM education, beginning at an earlier age, and esteem PBS as a reliable source of that for their preschoolers. Experts do in fact state that "strong elementary math skills are important if students hope to succeed in later grades and beyond—and because a mastery of each new math concept relies on an understanding of prior concepts, success must start at an early age (ital. added)."

Of course, these parents are focusing on STEM education for their kids so that they can help them build better futures for themselves. But President Obama himself has also focused on it lately as well, saying that "it is of the utmost importance to all students and critical to U.S. competitiveness," at an April 2011 town hall event at Facebook's Palo Alto, California campus. Perhaps he has recognized that improving STEM education nationwide is not only a way out of our current recession, but also a possible means of improving America's math and science literacy, past 24th or 28th place, to first.

If we want to insure a better future for our children and our country, the experts say it is STEM education, beginning at an early age, that is the key. PBS Kids is a proven way to start.

Why do you think STEM education is important? How are you helping your children improve and/or enhance their STEM education?

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