A multi-country survey conducted by personal technology company Lenovo concludes that students in emerging countries like India, Mexico, and Russia, are significantly more likely than students in developed countries to pursue STEM careers.
The 2011 Global Student Science and Technology Outlook "[calls] attention to the differences in how students around the world view science as a career aspiration," said Michael Schmedlen, the worldwide director of education at Lenovo. "While the study shows some interesting disparities, the outcomes suggest possible solutions for how to engage students and foster their passion for science."
The survey reveals that students in India ranked highest (82 percent) among those who believe it's very important for their country to lead the world in science. Mexico ranked second (81 percent) and Russia third (78 percent). In response to the same question, students in the U.S., Japan, the U.K. and Canada came in at 73, 61, 60 and 55 percent, respectively.
Students in the emerging countries also ranked highest in their intentions to pursue careers in STEM fields. Mexico came out on top, with 69 percent of students stating their wish to go into a STEM career. India and Russia weighed in at 62 and 55 percent, respectively. Compared with 54 percent of U.S. students, and 42 and 35 percent of the students surveyed from the U.K. and Japan, the developing countries would appear to be positioning themselves for earning an edge in the sciences down the road.
A glimmer of hope: the vast majority of the students surveyed indicated the opinion that science is "cool." The disparity between this majority and the relative dearth of students with STEM career aspirations in the U.S. is where the rubber meets the road. Whether due to lack of confidence, to the perceived strenuous demands of higher education in the sciences, or to another unidentified factor, students in the U.S. are overwhelmingly hesitant to act upon the enjoyment they got from STEM subjects during their K-12 education.
According to Lenovo's Schmedlen, "...programs like our partnership with YouTube Space Lab will do this by providing world-class judges as mentors along with phenomenally cool incentives like astronaut training and technology prizes."
Programs like science fairs inspire and reward students, too!