Mass. Board of Ed. Mandates Engineering for K-12

The famous three-legged standard of education—reading, writing and arithmetic—just grew another leg in the state of Massachusetts. And what is the new subject to be incorporated yearly in the state's K-12 curriculum? It's engineering, of course.

04/02/2001


The famous three-legged standard of education—reading, writing and arithmetic—just grew another leg in the state of Massachusetts. And what is the new subject to be incorporated yearly in the state's K-12 curriculum? It's engineering, of course.

"We had to convince the Mass. Board of Education, the teachers and the public," explains Ioannis Miaoulis, dean of Tufts University's school of engineering and chair of the board's advisory panel. "I thought it would be a hard sell, but it wasn't because people understand that engineering is an ideal way for children to learn problem-solving skills, and engineering brings math and science alive."

With the Board's unanimous decision this winter, Massachusetts has become the first state to establish such an educational requirement—a decision which has already had ripple effects.

Just last month, deans from engineering schools around the country gathered at a conference in Washington, D.C., to discuss engineering education in primary and secondary schools, and Miaoulis' phone has been ringing daily, with constituencies in Connecticut, Maryland and other states looking to follow in Massachusetts' footsteps.

"Introducing students to the challenges and rewards of engineering at an early age is a great educational initiative," points out Paul J. Banks, CEO of R.G. Vanderweil Engineers, Boston. "This is an idea that's time has come; we're pleased to see Massachusetts take the lead on it."

This push for elementary and secondary engineering education couldn't have come at a better time. With math and science test scores continuing to drop, a recent international study of eighth-graders ranked the United States 18thin math and 19thin science out of 38 countries.

Engineering education advocates are also hoping that the long-term effects of the Massachusetts Board's decision will help reverse the trend of fewer and fewer college students choosing engineering as a course of study.

"This new requirement will raise a level of awareness that engineering is an opportunity for students," claims Frank Manter, P.E., president of the National Society of Professional Engineers' Massachusetts chapter.





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