As Swiss cognitive psychologist, Jean Piaget, once proclaimed: "The principal goal of education is to create men who are capable of doing new things, not simply of repeating what other generations have done."
For the United States to remain globally competitive in the 21st century, education must become a focus of conversation. Once a predominantly industrial based economy, the U.S. has shifted towards a service based economy. What does this mean? Continually changing marketplaces, highly dependent on information and innovation, drive economic growth. But, the U.S. is not an island until itself. Emerging nations world-wide are also seeking to grow their economies by investing in educational systems that promote skilled citizens. Therefore, it is imperative that we examine our own educational system - overhauling it as necessary - in order to create a workforce that is prepared to compete on an increasingly complex world stage.
We need educational opportunities that support the development of critical thinking and creative problem solving. We need to develop citizens that can identify problems, work through possible solutions, and make educated decisions in multiple disciplines. We need calculated risk-takers. More connected then ever, we need workers who can communicate and collaborate with a keen, global awareness.
Even though the United States leads the world in educating its people, it is falling behind foreign competitors in the subject areas of science, technology, engineering, and math (STEM). As part of President Obama's "Educate to Innovate" campaign, he launched the non-profit (CEO-led) "Change the Equation" with the hopes of improving the quality of STEM education nationally. Two years later, in his 2012 State of the Union Address, Obama said:
"I hear from many business leaders who want to hire in the United States but can't find workers with the right skills. Growing industries in science and technology have twice as many openings as we have workers who can do the job. Think about that - openings at a time when millions of Americans are looking for work. That's inexcusable."
Even with the best laid intentions, there seems to be some apparent disconnect. Where, then, is our system flawed? This isn't just a government problem. Though, more government investment could be of value. We need to engage in public discourse as business owners, teachers, parents, and concerned citizens. We must demand more from our educational system, and frankly, more from our students. The development of strong leaders is key. If education is the foundation, than knowledge and innovation is the springboard to remain competitive in the 21st century.
Even though it was written in 2009, this article defines the goals of STEM education while discussing implementation challenges. An interesting read...