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Parents of Under-Represented Students in Science and Engineering Speak Out on Issue in New National Survey

Submitted by: Bayer

Categories: Philanthropy & Corporate Contributions

Posted: May 24, 2005 – 12:00 AM EST

 

Say Girls, African-American, Native American and Hispanic American Students Have the Right Stuff for Success

PITTSBURGH - Despite the fact that women, African-Americans, Native Americans and Hispanic Americans have long been under-represented in science and engineering (S&E) in the United States, a new survey shows parents of these students are overwhelmingly confident that their children - both boys and girls - have what it takes to succeed in these subjects in school and afterward in the workplace.

Parents see science and technology as important engines driving the nation's economy and national security and view science and engineering careers as "desirable" and "realistic" for both their sons and daughters. At the same time, parents believe the science and engineering communities need to do a better job of making today's students more aware of the wide range of job opportunities available to them in these fields.

When it comes to the long-standing gender and minority inequities in these fields, many parents surveyed say they are aware of such inequities and more than half say they are concerned about them. However, unlike the National Science Board (NSB), the governing board of the National Science Foundation, significant numbers of parents do not see any potential danger this inequity may pose for the United States and its ability to retain its global leadership position in science and technology.

These are among the key findings in the newest national science education/science literacy survey commissioned by Bayer Corporation as part of its Making Science Make Sense®(MSMS) program. This year's survey examines the issue of under-representation of women, African-Americans, Native Americans and Hispanic Americans in science and engineering fields from their parents' point of view.

The Bayer Facts of Science Education XI: American Parents Speak Out About Their Children and Science polled 1,000 American parents who have at least one boy and one girl between the ages of 5 and 18 living at home. In addition, in order to include under-represented minorities, interviews with African-American, Native American and Hispanic American parents who fit the same profile were added until each of these groups contained 250 completed surveys. A total of 1,500 surveys were conducted in March and April 2005.

Parents Positive About Girls and Boys and Science
Overall, the survey found that parents across the board think both their sons and daughters are potential winners when it comes to science and math. Many report their sons (88 percent) and daughters (85 percent) are interested in science, math or engineering. Six in 10 (63 percent) parents report their sons have already expressed an interest in continuing to study or have a career in these fields, while four in 10 (42 percent) report their daughters have expressed such an interest.

They're interested, but can they succeed? Yes, say parents. Almost all parents (96 percent sons; 95 percent daughters) are confident that their sons and daughters have the ability to succeed in these subjects in school, with nearly three-fourths (75 percent sons; 73 percent daughters) feeling "very confident." In addition, nearly all of the parents (92 percent sons; 90 percent daughters) are confident that their children have the ability to succeed in S&E careers, with half or more saying they are "very confident" (69 percent sons; 57 percent daughters).

Virtually all parents see these careers as desirable for their sons (91 percent) and their daughters (86 percent). And, upon learning that many jobs in these fields do not require advanced degrees beyond a bachelor's, most parents (88 percent) believe these fields present realistic job opportunities for their children. However, almost all parents across the board (88 percent) believe the S&E communities need to do a better job telling today's students about these job opportunities.

Parents: Bullish, Yet Biased?
While the survey uncovers parents' overall positive attitudes about their sons' and daughters' abilities to achieve in science in school and beyond, at the same time it reveals a subtle gender bias that favors their sons. This bias is revealed in the strength of their answers to a series of questions. For example, while almost all (91 percent sons; 86 percent daughters) believe these careers are desirable for their children, 65 percent say they are "very desirable" for their boys and 41 percent say "very desirable" for their girls. In addition, while nearly all parents

(92 percent sons; 90 percent daughters) are confident their children can succeed in S&E fields, 69 percent are "very confident" about their boys and only 57 percent are "very confident" about their girls.

"First and foremost, we must applaud parents for recognizing their sons' and daughters' capacity to succeed in science, math and engineering fields, and for encouraging and assisting them regularly in their formal and informal science education," said Dr. Mae C. Jemison, the nation's first African-American female astronaut and Bayer's national MSMS spokesperson. "That said, parents and all adults, for that matter, need to be aware that our own unspoken biases are often communicated unknowingly to our children with negative impacts. When it comes to science, math and engineering, we must acknowledge that for the United States to build and maintain the kind of creative and inquisitive research that keeps discovery and innovation alive, everyone must have a seat at the table."

Challenges
In learning science, more parents identify challenges for their daughters than they do for their sons.

When asked to evaluate such possible challenges, parents indicated the following as either a big challenge or somewhat of a challenge:

  • Science classes are boring or uninteresting (58 percent girls; 51 percent boys)
  • Teachers who are poorly qualified to teach science (57 percent girls; 47 percent boys)
  • Few good science role models or mentors for them (56 percent girls; 45 percent boys)
  • Science is a difficult subject to learn (54 percent girls; 43 percent boys)
Issues many parents believe pose either little or no challenge at all for their children include:

  • Science is not a "cool" subject (64 percent girls; 67 percent boys)
  • Teachers who hold the view that their sons and daughters don't belong in science (69 percent girls; 75 percent boys)
"The good news here is that old stereotypes seem to be breaking down," said Jemison. "The fact that science is no longer seen as 'nerdy' and that teachers are seen as inclusive when it comes to boys and girls in science - these are big steps in the right direction."

Under-representation
But, Jemison says, more work needs to be done, particularly in the area of under-representation. For example, while two-thirds (66 percent) of parents polled report being aware of the under-representation of women, African-Americans, Native Americans and Hispanic Americans in S&E fields, and more than half (56 percent) are concerned, only 15 percent are "very concerned" and a significant number of all parents - except African-Americans - are not concerned (44 percent parents overall; 63 percent Native Americans and 52 percent Hispanic Americans). A larger number of African-American parents (69 percent) are concerned.

Further, parents do not appear to share the concern outlined by the NSB and National Science Foundation in recent national reports. These reports warn that the U.S.'s global leadership position in science and technology could be threatened in the future if we don't begin adding more women and minorities to the number of scientists and engineers we need to stay competitive. When asked whether this lack of participation threatens the U.S.'s ability to compete with other countries in S&E, parents were divided with roughly half saying "yes" (47 percent) and "no" (49 percent).

"The science and engineering communities not only need to do a better job communicating the myriad job opportunities to students, we need to work much harder at letting them - and their parents - know that we want and need them in these fields. One way is by actively supporting science education programs that strive to eliminate this inequity and achieve parity," said Dr. Attila Molnar, Bayer Corporation president and CEO.

Closing the Gap
Parents agree. They believe the S&E communities (92 percent), together with parents themselves (98 percent) and others, share responsibility for ensuring women and minorities succeed in these fields. In addition, many agree (72 percent) the S&E communities should develop programs that attract, encourage and retain girls' and minority students' interest in science and math.

Parents also think education is key. One important way to eliminate this under-representation is for girls and minorities to receive a strong science and math education beginning in elementary school, say 95 percent of parents. Almost all parents (81 percent) believe science should be the fourth "R" in elementary school and given the same emphasis as reading, writing and math, although half (56 percent) believe science is/was given less emphasis during their children's elementary school years.

Almost all parents across the board (87 percent) say that the most effective method for students to learn science is through hands-on, inquiry-based instruction where students conduct hands-on experiments, form opinions and discuss and defend their conclusions with others. Virtually none of the parents (three percent) selected traditional
textbook-based, lecture-driven science education as the more effective method.

"The science and engineering pipeline doesn't begin in college, nor does it begin in high school. It starts in elementary school at the earliest grades when all students are interested in science," explained Sarah Toulouse, who oversees Bayer's MSMS initiative. "Hands-on science, through the process of discovery, captures and sustains this interest, while building important science literacy skills such as critical thinking, problem solving and teamwork. We believe this is the way to create a healthy pipeline - and not just of future scientists and engineers - but of a citizenry that is scientifically literate."

The Bayer Facts of Science Education survey series, part of an ongoing annual public opinion research project, is one component of Bayer's company-wide Making Science Make Sense initiative that advances science literacy through hands-on, inquiry-based science learning, employee volunteerism and public education. Currently, 11 Bayer sites around the country operate local MSMS programs, which together represent a national volunteer corps of more than 1,000 employees.

Bayer Corporation, headquartered in Pittsburgh, is part of the worldwide Bayer Group, an international health care, nutrition and innovative materials group based in Leverkusen, Germany. In North America, as of April 2005, Bayer employed about 16,000 and had net sales of 8.3 billion euros. Bayer's three operating companies - Bayer HealthCare LLC, Bayer CropScience LP and Bayer MaterialScience LLC - improve people's lives through a broad range of essential products that help diagnose and treat diseases, protect crops and advance automobile safety and durability. The Bayer Group stock is a component of the DAX and is listed on the New York Stock Exchange (ticker symbol: BAY).

Results of The Bayer Facts of Science Education XI, conducted by Market Research Associates, are based on a telephone poll of a total of 1,500 American parents using random digit dialing. The confidence level achieved conducting the initial 1,000 telephone interviews is 95 percent with a +/- three percent margin of error. Each of the 250 completed telephone interviews among the three minority groups provides a confidence level of 95 percent with a +/- seven percent error factor.

For more information about the Bayer Facts XI survey in both English and Spanish, please visit Bayer's MSMS Web site at www.BayerUS.com/MSMS.

Bayer Facts of Science Education XI: American Parents Speak Out About Their Children and Science

Key Survey Findings

Parents and Their Children and Science

  • Parents believe teachers play the greatest role in stimulating their children's interest in science (45 percent sons; 57 percent daughters), followed by parents themselves (25 percent sons; 25 percent daughters) and then media, such as film, television, books and magazines (17 percent sons; 9 percent daughters)

  • When it comes to science toys like microscopes, telescopes, experiment kits or mineral, rock or fossil collections, two-thirds (64 percent) of parents say they have given such items to their sons in the past year; roughly half (47 percent) say they have to their daughters

  • While more than eight in 10 parents polled say their children have an interest in science (88 percent sons; 85 percent daughters), they are more likely to say their sons are "very interested" (52 percent) than their daughters (28 percent)

  • When asked if their children have ever expressed an interest in continuing to study or have a career in science, math or engineering, roughly two-thirds (63 percent) say yes for their sons; 42 percent say yes for their daughters

  • While nine out of 10 parents (91 percent sons; 86 percent daughters) feel a science and engineering (S&E) career is desirable for their children, more feel it is "very desirable" for their sons (65 percent) than for their daughters (41 percent)

  • A full three-quarters of parents (75 percent sons; 73 percent daughters) are "very confident" that their children have the ability to succeed in science and math in school

  • While nine in 10 parents (92 percent sons; 90 percent daughters) are confident that their children have the ability to succeed in a science or engineering career, more are "very confident" about their sons (69 percent) than about their daughters (57 percent)

  • Overall, parents report being very active when it comes to encouraging and/or helping their children learn science. There was little difference between what they reported doing with their sons and their daughters.

    Activity Done at Least Once a WeekSonsDaughters
    Encourage them to do well in school95%96%
    Emphasize science is an important subject to learn 70%63%
    Teach science informally at home 42%42%
    Assist them with science homework/school projects42%39%
    Encourage them to learn science through books 41%36%
    Encourage them to learn science hands-on37%31%

    Challenges Faced Learning Science

  • When it comes to learning science, more parents identify challenges for their daughters than their sons. More than half of the parents indicate the following challenges ("big" or "somewhat") for their daughters:
    • Science classes that are boring or uninteresting (58 percent for daughters; 51 percent for sons)
    • Teachers who are poorly qualified to teach science (57 percent for daughters; 47 percent for sons)
    • Few good science role models or mentors for them (56 percent for daughters; 45 percent for sons)
    • Science is a difficult subject to learn (54 percent for daughters; 43 percent for sons)
  • Issues parents believe pose either "little" or "no challenge" for their children:

    • Teachers who hold the view that their sons and daughters don't belong in science (75 percent no for sons; 69 percent no for daughters)
    • Learning science when English is not their first language (70 percent no for sons; 69 percent no for daughters)
    Science and Engineering Careers for Their Children: Fantasy or Reality?
  • Nearly six in 10 (59 percent) parents think an advanced degree beyond a college bachelor's degree is necessary to have a job in science and engineering

  • Two-thirds (64 percent) of parents were surprised to learn that, according to the National Science Foundation, seven in 10 Americans working in science or engineering today have a bachelor's degree or less education

  • Nearly nine in 10 (88 percent) parents say that now knowing seven in 10 Americans working in science or engineering today have a bachelor's degree or less makes them think science and engineering hold realistic job opportunities for their children

  • Another nine in 10 (88 percent) parents feel the S&E community needs to do a better job telling today's students about these job opportunities

    Under-representation

  • Two-thirds (66 percent) of parents are aware of the under-representation of women and minorities in science and engineering fields

  • Half (56 percent) the parents are concerned about this under-representation, although only 15 percent say they are "very concerned"

  • For those parents who express concern, their reasons include:
    • Everyone should have an equal shot at these jobs (37 percent)
    • Discrimination of any kind is inappropriate and unfair (21 percent)
    • We need all the talent we can get (14 percent)
    • Other (28 percent)
    Who Holds Responsibility?
  • When asked who holds the greatest responsibility for ensuring that women and minorities succeed in science and engineering fields, parents polled say:
    • Parents (70 percent)
    • The Women and Minorities Themselves (66 percent)
    • Schools (53 percent)
    • Science and Engineering Community (49 percent)
    • Government (21 percent)
  • In order to eliminate this under-representation, almost all (95 percent) parents say it is important that girls and minorities receive a strong science and math education beginning in elementary school, with 78 percent saying it is "very important"

  • Nearly three-fourths (72 percent) of parents agree that the science and engineering community, including companies who employ S&E workers, should develop programs that attract, encourage, and retain girls' and minority students' interest in science and math in school

  • Specifically, parents believe the following company-sponsored education programs would be valuable:
    • Classroom programs that bring women and minority science and engineering workers into classrooms to serve as role models/mentors (92 percent)
    • Internships or school-to-work programs for girls and minority high school students that bring them into companies to interact with professional science and engineering workers in the workplace (91 percent)
    • Scholarship programs that provide financial assistance to girls and minorities who are committed to earning a degree in a science and engineering field (91 percent)
  • When asked if they believe that the under-representation by women and minorities threatens the United States' ability to compete with other countries in science and engineering, parents were divided with 47 percent saying "yes" and 49 percent saying "no"

    Science Education and Science Literacy

  • Eight in 10 (81 percent) parents believe that, in elementary school, science should be given the same emphasis as reading, writing and math.

  • More than half (56 percent) the parents say that during their children's years in elementary school science has been given less emphasis than reading, writing, and math; one-third (37 percent) say it received the same emphasis

  • At the elementary school level, parents most often assign their children's science education a "B" grade (43 percent); 28 percent rate it a "C"; and 17 percent an "A"

  • In middle school or grades 6-8, 41 percent of parents rate their children's science education a "B"; 20 percent a "C"; and 17 percent an "A"

  • Of those parents polled with high school age children, they most often give science education a "B" grade (29 percent); 11 percent rate it a "C"; and 18 percent an "A"

  • Nearly all (98 percent) parents polled believe science literacy is important for non S&E workers; two-thirds (65 percent) say it is "very important"

  • Eight in 10 (79 percent) parents polled consider themselves science literate

  • Nearly nine in 10 (87 percent) say that hands-on learning, where students conduct experiments, form opinions and discuss and defend conclusions with others, is the most effective way for students to learn science

  • For more information, please contact:

    Rebecca Lucore Bayer
    Phone: +1-412-777-5200
    Sarah Toulouse Bayer
    Phone: +1-412-777-5200

    For more from this organization:

    Bayer

     

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