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Energy Secretary Vows Science-Education Efforts

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U.S. Secretary of Energy James D. Watkins has vowed to create an "action plan" to improve science and mathematics education by 2007, the year children born today will graduate from high school.

Emerging from a two-day conference held this month at the Lawrence Hall of Science at the University of California at Berkeley, Admiral Watkins said he will include such a plan in a national energy strategy he will submit to President Bush next April.

"The numerous suggestions provided over the past several days will help me finalize my plan for action to improve the scientific literacy of the American people so that we can lead the world into the 21st century," Admiral Watkins said.

Conference participants discussed ways in which the department could help increase the supply of well-qualified science teachers, improve curricula, fill the "pipeline" of pro4spective scientists and engineers, and revitalize math and science education in inner cities and rural areas.

In addition, the participants also considered proposals to boost the number of women, minorities, and handicapped students pursuing math and science courses and careers, and to raise the general level of scientific literacy.

Some of the proposals could go into effect as early as next year, department officials said.

Although the Energy Department plans to work with other agencies, including the Education Department, to implement its plans, the officials said, it also has substantial resources of its own.

The department's network of 50 national laboratories, which employ 135,000 scientists, could supply as teacher-trainers or as mentors skilled technicians who are knowledgeable about their field, the officials noted.

In addition, they pointed out, the laboratories offer students and teachers an opportunity to observe top-grade facilities, and could be a source of laboratory equipment.

Mr. Watkins said his proposals would form the first steps toward solving the well-documented problems in math and science education.

"We already know that scientific illiteracy is rampant and that shortages loom in the supply of trained scientists and engineers," he said. "Instead of statistics, we will look at solutions."--rr

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