Higher education is a vast and complex enterprise in the industrial world and a rapidly growing sector for many developing countries
Although many groups try to keep statistics about STEM (science, technology, engineering, and mathematics) education, the data tend to be spotty and not always comparable.
The July 6, 2007, issue of Science magazine provided basic information as a "special section" about the five important components of STEM education, with material supplied by national governments and international bodies; such as, the "Organisation for Economic Co-operation and Development".
The data highlight the considerable challenges facing reformers in countries with large populations and those with small fractions of the student population entering STEM fields.
Antoine de Daruvar injects the real world into his bioinformatics classroom in an attempt to reinvigorate higher education at the University of Bordeaux 2
Daruvar, director of the "Centre for Bioinformationcs of Bordeaux" (CBIB) is a new kind of professor on the French academic landscape where he strongly agrees that French universities should open up to the rest of the world.
He encourages his students to do internships or projects abroad, and he hopes to create a master's degree in functional genomics, taught entirely in English.
The university and the ministry understand that France needs more foreign students, he says, and French students realize that English is crucial for their career perspectives. Besides, he argues, "it's too late" to rescue scientific French.
The hegemony (control or dominating influence) of English is just one of many forces shaping undergraduate STEM education: (Science, Technology, Engineering, Mathematics education)
Despite the vast differences in the makeup of their students, the policies that govern higher education, and the cultural and economic factors that shape the teaching profession, there are scientists who speak in surprisingly similar voices.
In story after story, they point to lagging interest and poor preparation in science among students, insufficient resources, heavy professional burdens, and antiscience attitudes in society at large.
Katrin Schäfer helps students acquire the skills they need to live and to work in a global scientific community
Katrin Schäfer, a teacher of science at the University of Vienna, Austria, is a strong proponent of teaching science undergraduates in English as a way to produce better prepared graduates and to help the university attract the brightest students from across Europe.
"You simply cannot have a career in the sciences without fluent English," says Schäfer, who grew up in Germany but moved to Vienna in 1988, "and the sooner you start, the better."
Today's students have "wonderful advantages," Schäfer continues, including guaranteed mentoring and exposure to international students and visiting scientists. "They also have more choices. Only about 10% go on to do a Ph.D., and that's fine. The [undergraduate] degree is still valuable."
Undergirding these new resources is a shifting landscape of language. Only a few generations ago, when cutting-edge research was published in journals with names like Angewandtechemie, proficiency in German was a must for serious science students around the world. Times have changed. Now most researchers acknowledge that English is science's lingua franca.
Auf Englisch, bitte. Katrin Schäfer believes that teaching undergraduates in German puts them at a disadvantage
Switching over to an English-based curriculum will not come easy, says fellow University of Vienna (UV) anthropologist Karl Grammer. "The opposition . . . will be very high," he says, "mainly because it would mean giving up German as a scientific language." Faculty members would also have to redo all their teaching material.
The Max Planck Institute for Evolutionary Anthropology in Leipzig, Germany, has recruited a "world-class faculty," Schäfer says, by "doing everything in English."
Although it was not mentioned in the article, one of the main reasons for utilizing English in international science studies is because of its extensive use of Latin and Greek words which are integral elements of scientific identification in the various fields of study.
The main science-word unit.
Related articles about science:
STEM, Part 2;