One year ago the National Science Board, the policy-making arm of the National Science Foundation, issued its report on undergraduate education in science, mathematics and engineering in the United States. The study confirmed fears that the quality of instruction in these fields had eroded during the past decade. It described the situation as a "grave long-term threat to the nation's scientific and technical capacity, its industrial and economic competitiveness, and the strength of its national defense."

Contributing problems cited by the report included dull laboratory experiments, often using antiquated equipment, and poorly organized and unimaginative instruction by faculty, many of whom, the report said, were failing to keep abreast of the latest developments. Little wonder, then, that fewer and fewer undergraduates have been electing to major in science. In 1975 9.4 percent of all students receiving baccalaureate degrees chose majors in biology, chemistry, geology or physics, but in 1983 only...

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