The Organization for Economic Cooperation and Development tanked US students 25th and 17th in math and science respectively. This downward trend of American students’ competencies in STEM fields (science, engineering, computing and statistics) can have serious consequences for the country’s future.
The future looks perilous because statistics claim that the skills required for jobs available in the 21st century will only be possessed by 20 percent of our workforce. By 2018, Americans will need three million highly skilled employees to fill up vacancies in engineering, math, and science related jobs. At least 70% of these jobs will require post secondary education. So in essence, we will have the jobs but no one to do them because our kids aren’t being trained effectively for a prosperous future.
Currently, only about of a third of our bachelor degree holders are educated in science and engineering as compared to students in Asian universities. Internationally, the United States is ranked 17th in the list of countries awarding the most number of science degrees.
American economy has always held a competitive edge over the rest of the world. But the last decade has seen a sharp decline. Economically, US is now ranked 6th among 40 countries according to a new study by a non-partisan research group. The list was created after studying 16 indicators of innovation and competitiveness. Americans are doing far worse at venture capital investment, research and education. Combine this with our ranking at number 48 for the quality of math and science education and things become much more understandable.
Considering the current dereliction of our education, it is hard to believe that only 25 years ago US had the highest number of high school and college graduates every year. And now we are 20th and 16th at these respectively.
Our decline in science and math education is particularly troublesome because these subjects are the foundation of innovation and advancement. Math is prerequisite for science, and science in turn, gives us innovations and inventions that solve problems. From cancer to global warming research, there isn’t a thing under the sun that doesn’t benefit from our being better educated as a people.
Good math and science skills are critical to our country’s ability to create a deeper talent pool needed to compete and thrive in the competitive global economy. It is important to have people educated in engineering, math and science for our future. A brief study of world history clearly shows that innovation depends on quite a large number of workers having these degrees in any economy.
It is important that the corporate sector comes together with Washington to solve the problems of our educational system. It is important that this issue is raised at public forums and policy debates to make it a priority with the decision makers. Students today are the workforce of the future, it is important for society to give them all the support they need to get ahead in the race for life. It is not just their future that is at stake here, but our own too.