Education professionals fear that coronavirus pandemic lockdowns will worsen disparities in science, technology, engineering, and mathematics (STEM) education for students in the U.S., where infection rates continue to soar.
U.S. officials are still deciding whether to open schools in the fall. If schools remain closed and students are forced to continue their education virtually, education disparities between students from poor and privileged backgrounds can deepen.
While Asian students in the U.S. score at or above average, only 18% of Black students and 28% of Hispanic students do. Black students in the U.S. are also less likely to enroll in advanced STEM courses at the high school level, or major in STEM degrees later in college.
This demonstrates how students who do not receive adequate STEM education at a young age are often impacted throughout their life. Currently, Black adults take up only 7% of STEM careers, whereas Hispanic adults take up 6%.
There are a number of ways that the COVID-19 pandemic is likely to worsen this disparity. Many students in underserved communities lack good internet access, making it harder for them to engage in distance learning. Schools that serve these children are also less likely to be able to lend resources, such as mobile devices, that can help them overcome poor internet access. These children are also less likely to live in quiet home environments or have parents who can assist them with homeschooling.
To help underserved students in and outside the United States during the pandemic, STEM professionals have launched the following online STEM initiatives:
- The Virtual Tutoring Team: Free live and recorded K–12 resources in multiple languages created by scientists, medical students, and teachers for students in Bronx, Harlem, Elmhurst and Washington, D.C., Haiti, and India.
- Mini-Lessons by Medical Scientists: Videos of medical scientists discussing scientific findings, produced by the American Physician Scientists Association.
More broadly, lawmakers in the U.S. recently made proposals that would also help minority students access better STEM education. The latest White House budget request includes a new STEM initiative for minorities. Under the proposal, the budget for the Minority Science and Engineering Improvement Program would increase from $12 million to $150 million, and would pay for a program to help minority-serving institutions in underserved areas. California lawmakers have also proposed legislation that would introduce students from disadvantaged backgrounds to computer science.
Resources from TryEngineering
As schools close, many teachers are looking for options to transition their curriculums to home learning. Additionally, many parents and guardians are looking for online activities to keep their children educated and entertained. TryEngineering has curated free resources available to support teachers and parents during this unprecedented and challenging time.