Some snippets from the 2006 NSF Science and Engineering Indicators report:
Elementary and Secondary Education
The ratio of public school students to online school computers improved from 12:1 in 1998 to 4:1 in 2003.
In 2003, 77% of K–12 students lived in a household with a computer and 67% had Internet access at home.
Students in high-income families were nearly three times more likely than those from low-income families to have home Internet access, 90% versus 32%.
Higher Education and Academia:
Bachelor’s degrees in the natural sciences (physical, life, environmental, and computer sciences, and mathematics) are about 12%, engineering baccalaureates are about 5%, and social/behavioral science baccalaureates are about 15% of all baccalaureates awarded.
Percentages of all bachelor’s degrees earned in the natural sciences, engineering, and social/behavioral sciences have fluctuated very narrowly over the past 20 years, but with an increase in the percentage of bachelor’s degrees in psychology (from 4% to 6%) and a decrease in the percentage in engineering (from 7% to 5%).
High levels of educational debt were most associated with graduate education: 13% had more than $35,000 of graduate debt, but only 2% had similar amounts of undergraduate debt.
Levels of debt vary by field, with doctorate recipients in psychology, social sciences, agriculture, and medical/health sciences having higher levels of debt.
The number of women in academia increased more than sevenfold between 1973 and 2003, from 10,700 to an estimated 78,500, raising their share from 9% to 30%.
Although their numbers are increasing, underrepresented minorities—blacks, Hispanics, and American Indians/Alaska Natives—remain a small percentage of the S&E doctorate holders employed in academia.
Public Attitudes and Understanding:
In the United States and other countries, most adults pick up information about S&T primarily from watching television, including educational and nonfiction programs, newscasts and newsmagazines, and even entertainment programs.
A study found that the movie The Day After Tomorrow influenced individuals’ opinions about climate change.
Many people throughout the world cannot answer simple, science-related questions. Nor do they have an understanding of the scientific process. However, U.S. adults may be somewhat more knowledgeable about science than their counterparts in other countries, especially Russia and China.
Science knowledge in the United States is not improving. Survey respondents’ ability to answer most questions about science has remained essentially unchanged since the 1990s, with one exception: more people now know that antibiotics do not kill viruses. This may be attributable to media coverage of drug-resistant bacteria, an important public health issue.
Less than half the American population accepts the theory of evolution. Whether and how the theory of evolution is taught in public schools remains one of the most contentious issues in science education.
See articles by or about Jon Miller (author of the public attitudes section of the Indicators report) for info about public science literacy, such as:
- Scientific literacy — How do Americans stack up?
- Scientific Illiteracy and the Partisan Takeover of Biology
- Scientific Savvy? In U.S., Not Much
According to him, less than a third of U.S. citizens are scientifically literate. This appears to be true at all ages, as an earlier section of the Indicators report also states:
In both subjects [math and science], only about one-third of 4th and 8th grade students, and even fewer 12th grade students, reached the proficient level.