Why American kids don’t take up science & technology careers?

Updated 2 May 2009: Received some wisdom from twitterers – @Shogun1947 @priyraju @akumaran


On my internal to company blog i had introduced a new idea a few months back – in the prolog section of every blog post, i provide a link to interesting posts i had read that week. To my surprise, this has become very popular. This is somewhat like the FTOTW (fine tastings of the week) series i used to run on this blog. I decided to try the same idea on this blog also.


First, A. Prem, one of Cognizant’s Social CRM experts, blogs regularly about Social CRM on his blog. He has a tremendous grasp of the subject. He writes one of the leading blogs inside the company as well.  Rachel Laudan, one of my food anthropology blog friends, lives and blogs from Mexico. She has some great updates on the Swine Flu epidemic.  Bob Sutton paraphrases Scott Berkun to explain how managers become a**holes. How Apple Cofounder Steve Wozniak gets things done.  Saraswathi, a former colleague, who now works in the social sector, had written a brilliant post on relationships a while back. must read.

Science  & Technology Careers in America

As someone who had lived in the USA for 10 years, i feel sad about the fact that American kids don’t take up science & technology careers as much as America needs them to.  The huge skills shortage that America faces is either filled by immigration or by outsourcing to other countries like India and China.

The stats from graduate programs and PhD programs also don’t bode that well. As of 2006, over 51% in grad programs in EE were foreign nationals and 71% in PhD programs were foreign. I don’t know how accurate these stats are. But the general perception in America is that Americans don’t like science & technology careers.

Paradise of Science

During our time in America, we used to wonder about, the kind of resources that are available to an American kid that Indian kids can not even dream. Every small city has a well-stocked library, a science center in the vicinity, several museums.

Even if one is a wee bit scientifically minded, there is plenty of resources to tap into.

By contrast, a city that plays host to over 6 MM people, Chennai, India does not have one well equipped museum or science center or library.

But Indian middle class kids, are taught right from when they are in the womb, that science  & technology careers are the be-all and end-all of living in this world.  Yes, this does create a large stereotypical population. But hey, how does that matter? When we want to find folks for science & technology jobs, we can find them easily without having to import them.

I am trying to find out, why American kids consider science & technology careers boring or geeky or nerdy or whatever?

What can be done to change this attitude of the American kids?


If i am lucky, i may get to work in a project to improve American kids’ attitude towards science & technology careers. Please help me with your wisdom.


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    Thanks for mentioning my post in the FTOTW series!! All other posts mentioned there make a great read. This concept is good.

    Very interesting question.

    The statistics given may really be true. In UAB (University of Alabama at Birmingham) where I did my Masters, there were just 3-4 Americans in the M.S and PhD level compared to nearly 20 students from India, China, Turkey etc. And the “surprising” part was there was only “one” American girl at the “graduate level” in the whole Computer Science dept.

    One of my professors at UAB is working in collaboration with high schools and middle schools in Birmingham towards “creating interest in Computer Science” among American kids. I will give you his contact email address, he may have many more ideas of why this is the situation. He conducts summer camps, awareness drives, high school programming contests, workshops for teachers etc to increase the interest of “American kids in Science & Technology”

    There are many reasons the professor used to quote for “low interest in Computer Science” [My points may be relevant only to Computer Science in the state of Alabama]

    1. The Alabama state education syllabus has mentioned “Microsoft Office”[Word, Excel etc] as “Computer Science”. So the professor is on the drive to create awareness that right from IPods, cars, aeroplanes, TVs, Washing Machines everything has Computers involved in it.

    2. The “teachers” in the high and middle schools were not well versed with “technology” themselves. So “Summer camps” were conducted exclusively for teachers so that they can inspire students.

    3. I noticed “extremes” when I was teaching kids in the Summer Camp. 1 or 2 kids were just “f&*%@W#” brilliant kinds and these kids got interest in “technology” just by doing experiments themselves. Other kids were just not “interested” in Computer Science. Not sure why this was the reason.

    In order to change the attitude of kids, the professor introduced “fun+programming”. Robotics was a big hit among the summer camp students. After the “Robotics” camp almost every student was “very excited” about technology and they were saying there are going to “experiment further”

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    kumaran said May 1, 2009, 6:24 pm:


    One thing related is an experience with a cousin of mine. She went to a career councillor after her 11th and the councillor said “you are a creative person, hence logical thinking not your forte, so science will not suit you”.

    my cousin joined a film making course and , did jobs in TV / NDTV / journo stuff. finally she after floating around jobs , is now doing a Phd on “Mobile phone usage in rural India”. As a part of her Phd she is learing and using statistical tools and software and little bit of programming and she likes it also.

    The point here the misconception that science and technology is not for creative people. Only arts is the career for creative people.

    Logic is needed for creative people and creativity is needed by geeks also.

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    Thank you for the mention Sukumar. Much honored! 🙂

    I am not much aware of American culture, but here in India, I am told that when we gained our independence we were encouraged to build our technical prowess & get into sci-tech. The “temples of modern India” reference by Nehru, the green revolution, etc. gave a huge boost to the technical careers. And the onset of IT as a big money game only enforced that into our culture.

    I also agree with you that we lack very much in providing proper infrastructure for the kids to learn further. I may have been lucky in my childhood because we had not one but 3 libraries in our township & a great high school lab. Being surrounded by engineers & technical people also helped and the teachers were people who taught us to be inquisitive & find out stuff by ourselves by reading & experimenting.

    The school lab was open for us any time of the day! We just had to let the teacher know & they would ensure that either they were present or left enough instructions with the lab assistant. I just loved making slides of cross sections of plant stems, roots, etc. and view them under the microscope. Same with stoichiometric experiments. They were no longer mere equations on the blackboard!

    The libraries not only stocked the very best in literature, biographies, history, fiction but also had many SF&F and science & GK books, encyclopedias, Tell Me series, yearbooks, magazines, etc.

    Wonder where can I get such an environment for Om. 🙁 So have started building a small library myself & hope to stock it with good books for his growing needs. He likes to experiment with cameras. So I give him a free reign with my mobile & guide him on my point & shoot. Thinking of buying a DSLR once he grows up a bit more in a couple of years.

    But, other than the personal arrangements that we can make of, I do not see any other option for the kids of today. Hope lies only in the local youth clubs & such.

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    Good post Sukumar. President Obama’s one of main topic is, this Science and Tech to American kids. I think here in U.S, kids has lot of lot choice to choose for their career. Most of them choosing a “no brainer” and “easy to work” with kind of jobs and some of them going to top business schools to end up in Wall Street.

    But apart from this all, cultural also playing important role to kids education. Here parents won’t provide 100% assistance to kids education, they have to earn them self for higher education. So some kids ends up with school degree jobs and they couldn’t go to higher studies. At same time, the parents influence over their kids decision making is almost nil here as oppose to Indian cultures.

    I’m connecting some dots here, as this developed nations kids not coming to science and technology since these developed nation holds all advance lab facilities, the innovation activity slowed down. Because developing nations can’t provide advance lab facilities. But anyways, now here a top level push happening from all side to study science and tech hence something good will happen in coming years.

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    From what I’ve read on American news articles and op-ed pieces, sci-tech is looked at being geeky and not-exactly cool. Plus, pretty much like how ‘Engineer’ and ‘Doctor’ are professions that make young kids and their parents go starry-eyed, ‘Lawyer’ and ‘Banker’ are the norm in america. This is third-hand knowledge so take it fwiw.

    This is pretty evident in the way law schools and ivy-league are more prominent in the minds and a MIT grad is looked at as an ultra brainy geek. Of course, in the end, when the money factor is looked at, on an average on would assume law school and inv-banking would be a quicker route to greater financial success or is atleast looked at to provide that. So I’d say, rather than struggle through 5 years of a phd and then years of post-doc, a fancy law school degree or mba would appear much more fashionable(?) to people.

    Of course these are generalisations based on personal opinion.

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    Ganesh said May 2, 2009, 6:57 am:


    In India, engineering and doctor are the ways to move up the societal ladder or maintain a middle class status-quo. This attitude is imposed right from a young age. Consequently, a significant chunk of the students aim to become an engineer or a doctor, but are really not keen on understanding the fundamentals of science. In a highly competitive, rote memory based environment, students do all they can do get a good rank to get into an engineering or medical university. I believe this imprint exists even when a student comes to study at an American University. Their aim is to gain an entry into the “land of opportunities” and not necessarily to gain more knowledge in engineering. It may look like I am stereotyping here, but I am simply applying the 80/20 rule.

    On the flip side, an American can live a decent comfortable life-style being a plumber. Engineering or doctor is not necessary to live a middle class life style. And also, there is awareness among parents to not push their wards in a particular direction. This combined with the perception that engineering is uncool or difficult and perhaps costs a lot also plays a part in kids not pursuing science or math based careers.

    Companies like IBM are extremely aware of this problem and is working along with the government in finding solutions. For example, IBM conducts EWeek (Engineering week) where a bunch of employees visit a school and show ‘cool’ projects (including building robots) to entice them to take Math and Science seriously. We also conduct summer science camps at IBM. Just today, I visited first graders and talked to them about engineering – what it means etc. It was really inspiring to see them be wowed by a simple diffraction experiment. The good news was that quite a bunch of kids wanted to become doctors and their curiosity remains unbounded.

    Just like America had a campaign against drugs in the 90’s and against smoking and teen pregnancy in the early part of this decade and now against global warming, I think a national level agenda needs to be established to promote Math and science. It has to be attacked from 2 directions – start from the top by educating parents – creating an awareness about future of America being dependent on Technology and from the bottom by promoting science and math from elementary school level. I do think America has the right president for this.

    The financial aspect that Subbu touched upon makes sense as well. I do not know if the cost of higher education will come down or be subsidized, but it will be easier if loans are available easily at very low interest rate and tax breaks are given for parents saving and paying for their kids education.

    Disclaimer: I disagree with President Obama’s policy on offshoring/out sourcing and caps on H1B. Seems like he just caved to typical union drivel about American protectionism.

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    Sukumar (subscribed) said May 2, 2009, 5:05 pm:

    Thanks Saraswathi for the informed comment. Thanks also for the UAB prof contact. I will contact the prof to find out more. From your comment, it appears that if students are given a hands-on experience, they like it better as evidenced by interest in Robotics. I am reminded of Dr. Randy Pausch’s head fake.

    I think we need to come up with a head fake to get kids interested in science & technology.

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    Sukumar (subscribed) said May 2, 2009, 5:08 pm:

    You are welcome. Looks like you had a privileged childhood based on the resources you had access to.
    Even today, i find the lack of a great library, science center and museums in chennai very bothersome.
    But then our kids have S&T drilled into their heads in other ways, so i don’t think we need to worry right now.

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    Sukumar (subscribed) said May 2, 2009, 5:12 pm:

    Thanks. I am trying to find out at what age kids get turned off of science & technology? You are right, the fact that college education is not typically paid by parents matters. But then the same problem should apply across disciplines right? How is it that people find the funds to get educated in non S&T streams but not in S&T ? Isn’t that strange?

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    Sukumar (subscribed) said May 2, 2009, 5:15 pm:

    Thanks. Not sure i agree with your point. Most S&T careers don’t require more than a UG degree. You need PG, PhD etc only if you want to pursue a research/academia, right?

    In fact, as one of my friends pointed out, if you wanted to go to management, you need an MBA which is typically a Grad level (PG) program.

    Given that, wouldn’t it make sense to pursue S&T careers? Yes, you may not make as much money as a management staff or a law grad, but then why do pursue Arts, Humanities etc which are even more difficult to make money in?

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    Sukumar (subscribed) said May 2, 2009, 5:23 pm:

    Thanks. Yes, Indian system produces a Engineering/Medicine chasing stereotype. No doubt. But then, everyone pursuing S&T doesn’t need to be a genius. When we need S&T workers we can find them, we don’t need to import them.

    Whereas, USA with all its superb resources find its difficult to get its youth take up S&T careers because it needs these people.

    Very nice to know that IBM is helping out in this area and you are personally involved in this. Kudos.

    I had a question – at what age do you think American kids are ticked off about S&T? from what i have seen and heard, kids do seem to be engaged in S&T and the curriculum which is very exploration driven is great at driving curiosity/learning in the kids.

    Why then does the USA have this problem?

    As for Subba’s point, please see my questions to him above? What do you think?

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    its because they want to do what they are passionate about. unlike us they do not relate their passion to money.

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    Sukumar (subscribed) said May 2, 2009, 7:54 pm:

    Thanks for visiting. That is a good point. However, the question is, why are they not passionate about S&T? Or rather why do American kids systematically avoid S&T careers? It appears a disproportionate number of girl kids avoid S&T even more. Why is this?

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    I was having the exact same discussion with somebody sometime ago. I dont know the following statement was from that discussion or if I read somewhere – but consider this “A math/science student with excessive inquisitiveness will be considered “hot” in India, whereas he won’t even attract one decent date in the USA”. Sounds funny, but ain’t it true?

    There are a few reasons – IMHO – that may be reason for your question you are asking; some of which are introspective of the education system as a whole.

    1) (In US) it is easy to get jobs after high school – So why sweat? Keep the subject of S&T aside, people dont even have a good reason to sign up for college or graduate studies, when it is possible to follow the American Dream with just high-school credentials. If you take this problem 30000 ft higher, it may be due to the supply-demand situation. This currently has fewer people and has always had “other people” do the work faster/cheaper.

    2) Education system in US – Education system in India promotes learning of complex concepts early on in their school life. A student in class VI learning calculus and trigonometry does not necessarily understand it in “human terms”, but learns application of these concepts later on in their life, based upon the discipline of study he chooses. On the other hand, American kids are encouraged to learn at their pace, encouraged to not accept a concept in syllabus unless and until they understand it. Most advanced S/T concepts are difficult to learn, if you dont accept it. I am of the opinion that their primary education system is squarely to blame. Not because they dont teach correctly, but hey lets face it, some concepts have got to be pushed down the throat. You cant expect to learn calculus or PN junction to be truly understood.

    3) The “System” spoils the kids – Can’t punish kids. Can’t force anything on them. Can’t make students feel guilty for being stupid (sorry for that). Can’t even force them to go to school. Even parents only have so much privileges when it comes to conditioning their kids. Adding to this, parents themselves are ignorant in many cases.

    I realize I took some latitude here, but the way I look at it, adoption of a discipline like S/T is directly proportional to how aggressive the schooling system is.

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    pk.karthik said May 2, 2009, 11:05 pm:

    Great Post Sukumar,

    I would like to draw an analogy here.I started washing my clothes only when I was admitted into a hostel ,as I had no one to help me.At home this chore was always taken care.Same is the case with cooking and other chores.I had to learn it when I did not have option.

    Similary in USA you have host of people coming from different parts of the world in S & T with some amazing brains,Inspite of being outsiders all their patents are being patented as American so America does not need to work hard to develop it .It has the money which ,just needs to be spent as infracstructure.American kids do feel its necessary to work in S & T for your country’s imprvoement and also for their personal comforts.

    They the day reverse brain drain happens then probably there will be a drive in the US to study S& T.

    Any development can happen only if there is need felt .In the case of America need felt is being taken of by others so it will take some time before things change.

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    Interesting viewpoint. What is great about American culture is the freedom that it gives its citizens (including children) and what is not so great about India is the lack of freedom that it gives its citizens (especially children). Interestingly, you have tied this freedom to the lack of progress in S&T in the USA and the lack of freedom in India to its progress in S&T.

    I agree that it is the societal/parental pressure on Indian children that is forcing them to take S&T without even beginning to understand it as Ganesh has said above.

    Let us talk about America, because that is the focus of this post. If we have to get Americans to S&T careers, we have to work within the ambits of the prevailing culture. Why can’t we teach science in a way students willingly take it up? Other than a few esoteric S&T concepts, most can be explained very well to children.

    We have to figure out, why S&T careers are uncool and fix that. As i read more about this subject and talk to people, i found a very interesting pattern – girls don’t choose S&T vastly disproportionately to their numbers? Maybe that is what we need to do – get more girls into S&T.

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    Thanks. That is interesting – because there is no need. Subba, Ganesh and others also have said that one can make enough money being a plumber etc. and hence S&T is not necessary.

    I find it difficult to believe that the Americans don’t think this is a need – most of the S&T jobs are being filled by foreigners and as you said patents are filed by foreigners, most S&T degrees are conferred on foreigners, lot of S&T jobs are being outsourced to India and China.

    Why then does the American society not perceive the shortage/need in this area? Perplexing.

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    It is combination of factors IMO as I see some point or other valid in all comments above. It is a combination of national policy, choice and demand-supply.

    With increased sophistication, codified processes and automation, the number of persons needed to sustain the industry sectors that US has leadership is taken care of – like Chemical, Defence, high-tech and Space. The delta, I believe is filled by immigrants or children of immigrants. As long as US keeps attracting talent, I still feel that they can have the lead.

    I have met some immigrants whose tales are full of great survival against odds. I know a couple living 700 miles apart for the last 7 years because the guy wanted to earn his PhD. He could have settled with MS and earned a decent 6 figures any given day. Such things, while could be there, may be rare for those who are born here.

    How could a country which could send man into moon in less than a decade, feel shortage of S&T grads. This was biggest shock to me when I came to US.

    Media and politicians protectionist stand on the offshoring and immigration could also be playing a big role in influencing the parents who in turn subconsciously influence their children. After 1971 when US-China tango started, the negative publicity of offshoring could be contributing factor. The next big wave was post 2000 IT/BPO outsourcing. I need to validate this by checking the trend of decline in S&T over at least 4 decades and if there is any sudden trough after these waves happened.

    My biggest problem is lack of strategic vision amongst the current congress and white house. In this aspect I agree with Ganesh. If there is fraud or abuse (however small it could be), it is easy to fix it rather than paint the entire H1B program as evil. I often find this very relevant in our evolution.

    It’s not the strongest species that survive, nor the most intelligent, but the one most responsive to change — Charles Darwin.

    What do you guys think?

  19. Quote
    Annapoorani said May 4, 2009, 9:47 pm:


    Nice pointer there…
    \\Every small city has a well-stocked library, a science center in the vicinity, several museums.
    \\sigh,in india all these infrastructures are not upto the mark when we go deep into the village side…
    \\are taught right from when they are in the womb\\absolutely true….

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    Sukumar (subscribed) said May 4, 2009, 10:04 pm:

    Your viewpoints are extremely insightful. If the USA govt has decided that leadership in the few sectors you mention are sufficient, i think they are grossly mistaken. Over time, they will have to fill even those with immigration.

    Lack of focus on S&T will hurt any country.

    Interesting that you tie this to the offshoring trends. Are you saying that parents are actively dissuading people from S&T because these jobs could be offshored?

    Yes, i agree H1B abusers need to be punished, nothing more. You can’t throw the baby out with the bath water – old jungle saying 🙂

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    Sukumar (subscribed) said May 4, 2009, 10:07 pm:

    Thanks Annapoorani.

    I am saying even big cities like Chennai don’t have the facilities even the smallest cities in the USA have. If that is the condition of a metro, villages are not even up for discussion, right ?

    Haha, the womb thing was a joke, but that is what pretty much happens. I wonder if we start even before the foetus is conceived LOL.

  22. Quote

    Your viewpoints are extremely insightful. If the USA govt has decided that leadership in the few sectors you mention are sufficient, i think they are grossly mistaken. Over time, they will have to fill even those with immigration.

    Lack of focus on S&T will hurt any country.

    Interesting that you tie this to the offshoring trends. Are you saying that parents are actively dissuading people from S&T because these jobs could be offshored?

    Yes, i agree H1B abusers need to be punished, nothing more. You can’t throw the baby out with the bath water – old jungle saying

    Right Sukumar. I mean they might be passively and subconsciously dissuading. It is entirely possible that few Alpha students who influence large groups, do not take S&T, (due to subconscious influence by media and parents), it will bring down the coolness of choosing them for S&T. I also want to see if there is any influence of Video Gaming (keeps kids active and yet occupied on cool stuff like war, racing and killing), sports which keeps kids fit yet takes away huge amounts of time and leisure travel. I am not comparing to my standards (which are well, as Indian as they could be), still I see there needs lot of home work time that kids lack in US.

    We have to consider sectors that are strictly closed to non-citizens, they have AFAIK, no serious shortages. But you are right, it could come very soon. I think that is the reason for urgency.

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    Interesting points Vamsi. Certainly gaming and sports seems to be taking away a lot of time. Yes, home work would be one way to engage, but it has to have an element of fun. Maybe we can deliver home work as a game that you can play on your xbox/wii/ps3 – what say?

    Yes, shortages could hit protected industries as well.

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    Life style is the most important reason for US students not taking up S&T.. the drive for learning/studying more, comes from certain lifestyle.. when the student at their teens, starts deviating from studies and focus on earning and enjoying, their path gets changed.. on the other hand, those who lead a balanced lifestyle in their teens, retains the vision, and pursues that..

    To quote an example, students from rural background in india perform more than those from urban class..

    studies/career in S&T (probably research or problem solving) requires lot of intensive mental work, which seems to be unattractive for the easy going americans.. for indians, its a question of status, and higher income, and hence they are willing to put that extra effort..

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    Thought provoking post, Sukumar. Very interesting insights from Ganesh.

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    That is tremendously insightful Senthil. I was not sure about the easygoing part. Having lived there for a long time i see them as hardworking. But the intensive mental work i think is on point. I don’t know what the others think about the easygoing part?

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    Thanks Archana. Surprised to see you back in the blogosphere. Hope to see you writing blog posts soon.

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    Mahua Seth said May 6, 2009, 10:44 pm:

    Sukumar ,

    I wish there was an easy answer to this conundrum. That is if you consider this a conundrum : its almost as though studying Science is the best option. Offering my two cents :

    1) In the US, a large number of middle class school students do not necessarily go to college . They can lead a decent life, and raise a family. Hence the number of students opting of college is lower that in countries like India. Here with bachelors degrees , you could still end up driving a taxi or being bus conductor.

    I will also add, until the last 5-6 years, the clamour for engineering courses was more, predominantly because of a good chance towards jobs.

    2) Then of those who do opt for colege education, they are relatively free to choose any field of their liking. Again unlike in India , where the environment reinforces Science as the best option. Infact, once day when I returned home from office, my son who is in Class I came up to have a serious discussion ( so he felt ) that he wanted to take up science in Class XI .. I sidestepped the discussion and tried to get into another topic, thinking this is an influence I definitely didnt want to push. He got annoyed and hurt that I wasnt giving his views any serious thoughts. 🙂 …. … I told him that he can do whatever he chooses and if it is science it will be fine by me …….. he seemed satisfied and went away … but how on earth did he know about all this when we conciously dont bring all this up at home? So somewhere he picked up the notion that science is the way of life !! 🙁 …. net net … there is a 50 – 50 % probability of those choosing college in US in not choosing science.

    3) However, I will also say , most children i n the Western world have a much higher exposure to application of science and much more scientific way of thinking in the western world even if they dont pursue science in life. This is because of the teaching style and insfrastructure that you mentioned.

    Also, during my graduate student days at the University of Washington, I found the American students far more fresh and innovative in their approach … unlike us who tend to be bookish, or exam oriented. The originality of scientific work in the western world is phenomenal …

    Additionally, I found those who choose to go to Univ in US .. are more serious ( than what we were as Undergraduates in India) since the investment for the college education is very high … they tend to prefer pure or applied science more than engineering. And many of the engineering undergraduates also return to graduate programs after a couple of years of work, to do their masters and Phd. So vanilla engineers become few in the market, which gives an opportunity to immigrants. 🙂

    4) Coming to specifically the issue of girl child , preferring science …. though situations is changing these days, there was distinct aversion that most girls showed.

    A few reasons for this as I see it are :

    – There is an implicit societal belief that scientific work is unbecoming of women. Madame Curie also had to struggle and there were women in Europe who published papers under their husbands/brothers name too.
    – This perception continues to be bolstered by indirect media portrayal of women … how many movies show women in professional roles, how many ads show women in high profile positions ?
    – There is a distinct lack of role models among women. Combining with above 2 points, the girls tend to be conditioned into thinking that other roles are preferable, like teachers, secretarial etc.
    – Most of the mothers of the girls, are themselves unconfortable in anything connected to science and that lack of confidence percolates into the girl child from childhood. While a boy child gets under the car with dad to repair the car, the girl child is seldom encouraged to that. This stereotyping, though unintentional, pre-conditions them to have low confidence subjects related to science.

    This continues to remain in US. In urban India, the pressure of being the better student and getting a good job, is forcing alot of women to take up engineering, irrespective of actual interest.


    While I was in LOs Angeles, I did work with Professor Neda Fabris of the California State University, Los Angeles, under the banner of AAUW, to promote interest in science among girl school students. We held fun scientific game camps at the campuses. We also held laboratory classes over weekend where mothers and daughter pairs from select schools did some nice fun experiments. This helped many mothers to realise that science is not necessarily so difficult and feel comfortable about science . We also had many successful women in science go over to teach or mentor students, so that they see role models. If you want you may still contact Dr. Fabris, who I am sure might still be doing such programs.

    Also the concept of ” bringing daughters to work day” in US was also done to encourage girls to go over to her fathers workplace and see what all is happening and learn. So when they visit factories, constructions sites etc, its a huge learning. I remember as a child I would go with my father ( in India) to his laboratory for the whole day during vacations, poring over microscopes looking at hideous looking germs/worms .. but my interest was definitely stoked.

    I think I ended up writing up a long response …… sorry about my ramblings.

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    Shoba said May 8, 2009, 4:39 pm:

    Very interesting and thought provoking question Sukumar. As most of them have said, culture and family play a key role in inspiring kids to choose S &T. I would like to add one more pointer to this. Most of the kids are pressed to step into the professional world much sooner, so they try to take the quick route and most of them end up in Jr Colleges in courses that will give them quick jobs and not a career. Guess, this is the flipside of the equal labor rights, where everybody is treated alike, be it a blue color or a white color job, where there is no societal pressure to take up a particular career.

    Another reason is the branding that has been given to Science professionals. Geek, Nerd etc. Young kids often feel that such an image would ruin their options for a social life, which is given high importance in U.S. If Geeks and Nerds become the in thing, I am sure most kids will choose Science,especially because of the opportunities the country has.

    As many have suggested. career counselling and awarness programs will help a lot. Also subsidized education costs for students who take into Science will attract more + guranteed jobs with good starting pay could make a difference.

  30. Quote

    Thanks Shoba for your insights. Yes, the idea of entering the workforce too early and getting the taste for earning (as Senthil put it) seems to work against a career in S&T. And yes, we need to make S&T cool.

    Not sure about subsidies and guaranteed jobs, though. Both require lots of money which may not be available.

  31. Quote
    Ganesan said May 17, 2009, 5:45 am:

    Hello Sukumar:
    Very interesting and thought provoking posts.

  32. Quote
    Sukumar (subscribed) said May 17, 2009, 12:36 pm:

    Thanks for the kind words Ganesan.

  33. Quote

    The HCL CEO recently made a similar point in an offical way ,relating it to the business aspect of his company and soon he was in hot water….Many commentators say that American kids are more inclined to getting rich,owning companies,making business out of science geeks ;and looking from the outside it appears to be so….

  34. Quote
    Sukumar (subscribed) said July 1, 2009, 8:22 am:

    With all due respect, the HCL Chief was way out of line with his completely inaccurate observations. To say that American kids are not hard working, shows an utter lack of understanding of how Americans grow up. I bet he has not lived in America for any extended period of time – i am not counting making business trips on a business visa in that category.

  35. Quote
    MSChemist said February 5, 2010, 9:51 pm:

    As an american who has put a lot of effort into pursuing a scientific career I have to say I am now ready to leave and will do my best to convince my family and anyone else who asks not to.

    First off there is no “shortage of scientists.” It is a big lie. I know scientists who have spent years unemployed and the employment of scientists age 40 and over is appalling.

    Also, look at the wages. Most positions in science don’t even offer a decent middle class salary. In many cases getting benefits and 40k is tough. Many companies do not even hire their scientists directly but use temp agencies to avoid paying benefits and to be able to fire them at a moments notice with no fallout.

    Americans avoid science careers not because they consider it nerdy, but because they realize it is the path to near poverty and unemployment. I have an MS degree in science and will be returning to school to switch careers into accounting. Shame on our nation for pleading for people to study science then denying them a living as a reward.

  36. Quote
    Sukumar (subscribed) said February 5, 2010, 10:34 pm:

    I am sorry to hear that you are switching to Accounting after an MS degree in science. Wishing you the best for a prosperous career in Accounting.

    It will be of great help to me, in my research into this topic, if you can point me to any statistical studies that talk about unemployment levels/low-wage levels among science graduates corroborating the points you have made in your comment.

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