Who Says the U.S. Educational System is not up to Par?
November 2 2007 by Francis Adams
The General Electric Company’s philanthropic arm GE Foundation, last week, committed $22 million to the Atlanta Public Schools. “District’s largest private grant ever will revamp math and science learning in grades k-12,” said a news release on the company’s web site.
The report also quoted Atlanta Public Schools Superintendent Dr. Beverly L. Hall saying that the grant will help deliver the vision of a math and science curriculum that exemplifies best educational practices, especially, recognizing demands for the workforce of the future.
A month ago, same time, market research firm Harris Interactive, and Adecco, the leader in workforce solutions released a survey that explored American workers’ views on education and the
It doesn’t end there. Fifty six percent of the respondents believe the country is not prepared to compete in a global economy. More women (61 percent) support such a thought than men (52 percent). Four in five employed adults or 83 percent agree that the responsibility to bridge the education gap should be placed on U.S. companies; with nearly three-quarters (76 percent) agreeing that today’s U.S. employers do not invest enough in training and development to keep the U.S. workforce competitive with other countries.
Not investing enough? According to the American Society for Training and Development,
There is also a school of thought among business leaders in Corporate America that dismisses the outcome of such surveys or responses. Frank Piantidosi, CEO of Deloitte Financial Advisory Services says: “Frankly, I don’t see that. The people we hire year to year get smarter and smarter and they are products of the education system of the
Adecco admits Piantidosi’s assessment is spot on, but insists there are flaws in the system screaming for attention. “The American workforce is still one of the most highly educated, highly motivated and productive workforces in the world. The challenge our clients face is finding the right people at the right time for the right position and retaining them. Having said that there are issues with our education system that can and should be fixed,” it says.
Some observers say that it is the combination of parents, teachers and students that collectively can and should make a difference in bringing about a turnaround in education. “STEM or Science, Technology, Engineering and Math are no longer of interest to American students to the same degree pre 2000,” says John Nordlinger, a program manager with Microsoft Research. An admirer of Randy Pausch, the 47 years old computer science professor from Carnegie Mellon University, who is stricken with cancer and who wowed the world with his not-to-be-missed “Last Lecture” earlier in October. Nordlinger has experienced the decline in STEM learning first-hand. After managing the universities in
Nordlinger and Microsoft’s realization is borne out by the Computing Research Association, a group of more than 200 North American academic departments of computer science, computer engineering and related fields. In a bulletin titled “Low Interest in CS and CE Among Incoming Freshmen“, it wrote: “After peaking in 1999 and 2000, interest in CS as a major fell 70 percent between 2000 and 2005. In the fall of 2006, 1.1 percent of incoming freshmen indicated CS as their probable major, the same as in 2005.”
Adecco’s Jamie Parker who leads the company’s workforce solutions in Engineering and Technical in
The Washington-based Council on Competitiveness, the only group of corporate CEOs, university presidents and labor leaders committed to ensuring the future prosperity of all Americans through enhanced competitiveness in the global economy and the creation of high-value economic activity in the country also published shocking data on its web site under “Benchmarking Competitiveness“. Its findings in the Science and Talent pool says: Jobs requiring technical skills are projected to grow by 51 percent, with six million job openings projected for technically-trained talent.
However, it says that outside of life sciences, undergraduate degrees in science and engineering are flat and declining, with a similar trend seen for graduate enrollments in key disciplines. A large share of PhDs in science and engineering, it says, are earned by foreign students. Also, the proportion of science and engineering degrees grew abroad at the same time declining in the
All doesn’t seem to be lost. A visible change in approach on the part of authorities is beginning to show, albeit at a slow pace. The U.S. Department of Education, last month, awarded $2.45 million to The Association of American Colleges and Universities in conjunction with the American Association of State Colleges and Universities and the National Association of State Universities and Land Grant Colleges. “This pilot program will bring important information to parents and students to help in their college decision making process, as they deserve,” said Margaret Spellings, the U.S. Secretary of Education. “Clear measures of student achievement at the post-secondary level will also assist policy-makers and institutions better diagnose problems and target resources to address gaps,” she concluded.
Piantidosi says the
Adecco’s own analysis is a confirmation of Piantidosi’s view. “The talent shortage of up to 10 million workers by 2010 [as projected by the Bureau of Labor Statistics] will give us a tug of war for workers who will be much more competitive than we experience during the tech boom. Turnover will increase, compensation will have to increase and unique benefits will come into play again. That will be the result of the quantity issue,” Adecco says.
So how does the
Away from all these developments, there are Americans like Donald P Nielsen, chairman of Tech First Inc. and a
He set off on a two-year journey traveling the
On a global level, the