New survey finds parents need help encouraging their kids in science

Arlington, Va., and Ridgefield, Conn. (May 10, 2010) — A new survey announced today finds the vast majority (94%) of science teachers wish their students’ parents had more opportunities to engage in science with their children. However, more than half (53%) of parents of school-aged children admit that they could use more help to support their child’s interest in science. The survey was conducted by the National Science Teachers Association (NSTA) and Boehringer Ingelheim Pharmaceuticals, Inc., among a sample of 500 science teachers and 506 parents, including 406 parents of school-aged children.

While science teachers agree (98%) that parental involvement is important for children’s interest in science, the survey shows it to be among the subjects parents are least comfortable discussing with their kids. In fact, barely half (51%) of parents say they are “very familiar” with what their children are learning in science and only 15% cited it as the subject they feel “most comfortable” discussing with them, compared to 33% for language arts and 28% for math. Approximately seven in 10 parents say they are “very familiar” with what their children are learning in language arts (71%) and math (69%).

“Science education has been identified as a national priority, but science teachers can’t do the job on their own. They need the help and support from key stakeholders, especially parents,” said Francis Eberle, NSTA executive director. “We know that family involvement is important, and parents need help getting involved with their kids in a subject they may not feel comfortable with themselves. We must continue to find ways to break down the walls of the classroom and encourage learning together among families.”

The future of science education is a growing concern nationwide, with leaders making a concerted effort to move American students from the middle to the top of the pack in science achievement over the next decade. The gap is significant: Only 18% of American high school seniors perform at or above the proficient level in science, according to the most recent National Assessment of Educational Progress figures. International test scores show that US students lag significantly behind their peers in science.

When asked what they think prevents parents from encouraging their children’s interest in science, 77% of teachers say parents don’t feel comfortable talking about science with their children. Part of the problem may stem from lack of resources and community involvement. Half of science teachers say parents don’t have access to materials (52%) or community resources that encourage their children’s interest in science (49%). Parents agree, with nearly four out of five (78%) saying it would encourage their child’s interest if they had a place in their community where they could take their children to explore science.

“For 125 years, Boehringer Ingelheim has been committed to improving the lives of patients and their families through the discovery of innovative science,” said Jim Baxter, senior vice president of development at Boehringer Ingelheim. “A priority for Boehringer Ingelheim is to further science education and help extend the learning process into the homes and families of students, in hopes of building a strong pipeline of scientists for the next 125 years. Through the Boehringer Ingelheim Science Quest initiative, we hope to encourage a passion for science in children beginning at an early age.”

Boehringer Ingelheim and Connecticut United for Research Excellence, Inc., (CURE) recently launched Boehringer Ingelheim Science Quest, a comprehensive initiative designed to bring hands-on science education directly to the Connecticut elementary schools that need it most. A centerpiece of the effort is the Boehringer Ingelheim Science Quest mobile laboratory — a high-tech science classroom on wheels — that will visit priority school districts across the state. The program also will include tools and resources to facilitate science instruction in the classroom and encourage family involvement in science together at home.

Video tutorials featuring several simple and fun experiments families can do together at home can be found at http://www.youtube.com/user/FamilyScienceQuest. More tips for parents on how to get engaged in science with their children can be found at http://www.nsta.org/sciencematters.

Survey Methodology

The survey of teachers was conducted by Opinion Research Corporation via telephone from March 12-18, 2010, among a sample of 500 teachers in the continental United States using a telephone listing of households across the United States which have a teacher living there. The teachers qualified for participation if they taught science exclusively or taught science along with other subjects. If the sample had been randomly selected, the margin of error for the sample of 500 teachers would be +/-4.3%.

The parents’ survey was conducted via telephone from March 11-15, 2010, using the Random Digit Dialing omnibus services of Opinion Research Corporation. Completed interviews are weighted by four variables (age, sex, geographic region, and race) to ensure reliable and accurate representation of the total population, 18 years of age and older. The margin of error for the total sample of 506 parents is ±4.3% (weighted sample size: 715), and the margin of error for the total unweighted sample of 406 parents of school-aged children is ±4.8% (weighted sample size: 525).

About National Science Teachers Association and Science Matters

The National Science Teachers Association (NSTA) is the largest organization in the world committed to promoting excellence and innovation in science teaching and learning for all. The NSTA Science Matters initiative brings content, news, and information that supports quality science education to parents and teachers nationwide. Science Matters because the pipeline for our next generation of scientists, engineers, and technicians begins in the K-6 classroom. Quality elementary science lessons capture children’s attention when they are most open, most curious, and most naturally disposed to asking questions about the world around them. Young children who receive a strong foundation in science during their elementary school years do better in science in later grades. Engaging students in science at an early age also provides them with more information on career opportunities in science, technology, engineering and mathematics (STEM) careers.

About Boehringer Ingelheim Pharmaceuticals, Inc.

Boehringer Ingelheim Pharmaceuticals, Inc., based in Ridgefield, CT, is the largest U.S. subsidiary of Boehringer Ingelheim Corporation (Ridgefield, CT) and a member of the Boehringer Ingelheim group of companies.

The Boehringer Ingelheim group is one of the world’s 20 leading pharmaceutical companies. Headquartered in Ingelheim, Germany, it operates globally with 142 affiliates in 50 countries and more than 41,500 employees. Since it was founded in 1885, the family-owned company has been committed to researching, developing, manufacturing and marketing novel products of high therapeutic value for human and veterinary medicine.

In 2009, Boehringer Ingelheim posted net sales of US $17.7 billion (12.7 billion euro) while spending 21% of net sales in its largest business segment, Prescription Medicines, on research and development.

For more information, please visit http://us.boehringer-ingelheim.com and follow us on Twitter at twitter.com/boehringerUS.

The material in this press release comes from the originating research organization. Content may be edited for style and length. Want more? Sign up for our daily email.