STEM (Science Technology Engineer and Math) major graduates are in high demand as the tech industry is rapidly growing. They enjoy higher employment rate and better salaries than other faculty graduates. According to studies, STEM graduates earn an $65000 the first year after graduation, $15,500 higher than average. However, North American universities and colleges are not simply producing enough computer science grads. According to the Times, fewer than 40,000 American grads earn bachelor’s degrees in computer science, far short of the 150,000 computing jobs available each year. Similar shortages have also experienced in Ontario.
Ontario high school students have very limited interests in studying science and technology at post-secondary level or pursuing STEM-related career. Both my kids have abandoned sciences and technology courses at high school and pursued elite business programs at colleges. According to StatsCan, only 22 per cent of high school students express much interest in studying science at the post-secondary level or working in science related jobs.
“STEM courses are just too damn difficult,” an Ontario high school student who maintained an excellent grade at high school told me. “I think that is why many high school students choose other subjects over science related courses.”
The math crisis experienced in Ontario has in some way provided an answer to the severe talent shortages in the IT industry. Students’ lacking enthusiastic in STEM fields can be traced to their poor math achievements at early grades. Math skills can help students develop problem solving ability and the habit of thinking that is critical in exploring the related engineering and technology fields. Study shows that early achievement in math helps fuel their interest in STEM fields and encourage them to make future choices in STEM career.
But Ontario math system is broken. Recent EQAO math results show that half of Gr. 6 public school students failed to meet the provincial standard, and that the percentage of Gr3. students failing the test climbed from 32% to 37%.
The alarm bells were sounded about math education in Canada for years, and Canadian students’ math scores in international competitions have been in decline year-over-year. In 2013, international student achievement rankings showed that Canada had slipped to 13th place in math, ranked behind many Asian countries – including Shanghai, Singapore and Japan. The results put the math teaching on the scale of national emergency.
The situation has really caused great concerns from immigrant parents from China, who came from a country that deeply embraces the value of math learning. In China, math has gained an elite status in high school curriculum, and serves as an important indicator of the students’ academic success. Under this powerful math learning culture, China has continued to churn out many math geniuses who have dominated the international math competitions year over year.
But in Ontario, math teaching faces tremendous challenges. Under the current math curriculum, students lack math fundamental skills. More shockingly, Ontario math teachers are weak in math fundamentals themselves. A professor in U of T’s OISE, which offers training courses for math student teachers, has found that some math teachers even don’t know multiply and divide, and that some even think a reminder 3 is the same as decimal 3.
The problems leave many parents, especially Chinese parents frustrated, and prompted their demand for change. Apparently, amid the rising math crisis and ever growing STEM shortages, the Ontario government face tremendous pressure to fix the broken system. They should take immediate actions – by overhauling the math curriculums first.
我们鼓励所有读者在我们的文章和博客上分享意见。We are committed to maintaining a lively but civil forum for discussion, so we ask you to avoid personal attacks, and please keep your comments relevant and respectful. Visit the FAQ page for more information.