To Keep America Great, Students Must Be Taught to Innovate

Jul 8, 2011 by

Rodney C. Adkins is senior vice president of IBM’s Systems & Technology Group

Innovation has always been a mainstay of successful enterprises. Think about how innovations like the steam engine, the transistor, and the Internet-built business created industries and powered economic growth. The same can be said for individuals. Those who create the next great innovations—and not just consume them—will be the biggest winners in tomorrow’s economy.

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That is why it is increasingly important for students to study science, technology, engineering, and math (STEM). History has shown that those who have strong math and science skills will be the innovators of tomorrow. And the United States needs these creators to grow our economy and generate new jobs. According to the U.S. Department of Labor, only 5 percent of U.S. workers are employed in fields related to science and engineering, but they are responsible for more than 50 percent of our sustained economic expansion.

Yet there are some alarming trends that indicate we are at risk of becoming a country of consumers, not creators. According to the National Science Foundation, the percentage of U.S. students studying math, science, and engineering has decreased from 21 percent in the 1980s to approximately 16 percent today. And overall math and science test scores of 15-year-old students in the United States continue to lag behind those of many other countries. In fact, in the most recent Organization for Economic Co-operation and Development (OECD) test scores, the United States was below the average score in math and only at the average in science. [Check out the best high schools in the nation.]

A look at the latest U.S. census data is also a cause for concern. America’s shifting demographics make it especially important that we encourage minority students to pursue science and engineering education. Today, 43 percent of school-age children are of African-American, Latino, or Native American descent. Yet of more than 70,000 U.S. engineering bachelor’s degrees in 2009, less than 13 percent were awarded to under-represented minorities, according to the

 

 

. If the United States is to remain competitive in a global economy, we will need to reconcile these opposing trends.

via To Keep America Great, Students Must Be Taught to Innovate – US News and World Report.

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