American science and mathematics education must be "rebuilt" with rigorous courses following a "coherent national pattern," new nationwide exams to make sure academic goals are met and 2,000 federally funded science and math schools, a National Science Foundation panel recommended yesterday.
After a 17-month study, the panel warned that the United States "must not become an industrial dinosaur," and charged, "The nation that . . . led the world into the age of technology is failing to provide its own children with the intellectual tools needed for the 21st Century."
At a news conference, former transportation secretary William T. Coleman, co-chairman of the group, said that even though education is "primarily a local responsibility" its problems are so serious that there is a "crying need for national leadership and a national commitment" to overcome them.
Taking issue with President Reagan's emphasis on local and state responsibility for schools, Coleman said, "A national leader has a responsibility to lead."
The panel suggested that the federal government spend about $4.6 billion over the next six years to develop new curriculum "guidelines" and tests, retrain 1.2 million teachers and help establish 2,000 "exemplary" science and math schools.
It said state and local governments also would have to make "substantial" spending increases, but declined to specify how much. It suggested that the president establish a National Education Council to oversee the curriculum development and testing programs, and a Council on Educational Financing to determine total funds needed and possibly to recommend new taxes.
The 20-member commission on pre-college education in mathematics, science and technology is composed mostly of educators, scientists, and business executives. It was appointed by the National Science Board, the policy-making group of the National Science Foundation. The NSF, a government agency, sponsors most of the nation's non-medical, non-military research.
Lewis M. Branscomb, chairman of the board, indicated that it probably would approve the report at a meeting Thursday.
Entitled "Educating Americans for the 21st Century," the document is the latest in a series of reports by prestigious panels that have criticized American schools and suggested a sharp upgrading of educational standards.
The most widely publicized was the report of the National Commisssion on Excellence in Education, appointed by Education Secretary T.H. Bell. Reagan endorsed its conclusions in nationwide speeches.
Neither Reagan nor Bell commented yesterday on the new report.
In a statement, presidential science advisor George A. Keyworth II said the administration "is receptive to recommendations for improving science and mathematics education, and the . . . findings will be taken into consideration."
The report echoes the call of the commission on excellence for a longer school day and school year and more required courses for high school graduation and admission to college. It also calls for higher teacher pay, tied partly to their performance and to shortages in different fields, such as science and math.
It repeats statistics comparing the United States with other industrialized nations, showing that the United States lags behind Japan, the Soviet Union and most other industrialized countries in average educational achievement and the rigor of school programs.
But the report also contains the outline of a science and math curriculum for all schools that Coleman said should be the basis for a "consistent and coherent pattern of . . . education from kindergarten through high school."
In contrast to NSF programs in the 1960s and 1970s that developed sophisticated courses primarily for college-bound students, Coleman said the emphasis must be on providing "a basic understanding of science and math by every child." By 1995, the report said, "the nation must provide, for all its youth, a level of mathematics, science and technology education that s the finest in the world."
To do this, the report said there must be at least 60 minutes of mathematics instruction every day, starting in kindergarten, and 30 minutes a day of science.
In junior high schools, it said, there should be courses in practical technology, and in senior high at least three years of math and three years of science for all students, including one semester of computer science.
In many cases, the report said, American schools suffer from "shocking past neglect, misdirection, and deeply entrenched practices that are difficult to alter."
Although it said many courses taught "in most American schools badly need revision and updating," the panel said it was "not recommending a centrally controlled educational system" or a single "national curriculum."
But it said new tests based on national goals for each grade, not just "miminum competencies," must be developed for "measuring and comparing student achievement . . . in every state, school district, and school."