The Importance of Science Education

Posted on October 28, 2007  Comments (7)

The Science Education Myth by Vivek Wadhwa:

The authors of the report, the Urban Institute’s Hal Salzman and Georgetown University professor Lindsay Lowell, show that math, science, and reading test scores at the primary and secondary level have increased over the past two decades, and U.S. students are now close to the top of international rankings. Perhaps just as surprising, the report finds that our education system actually produces more science and engineering graduates than the market demands.

The study certainly sounds interesting. I can’t find it (update Vivek Wadhwa provided the link – which will work Monday, also see his comment below), but found an article (which wasn’t easy) by the authors of the report: The Real Technology Challenge. The main point of the article, The Real Technology Challenge, seems to be that the USA should focus on globalization (and focus on educating scientists and engineers to work in a global world).

As I have said before I disagree with those that believe the USA is producing more science and engineering graduates than the market demands. Smart leaders know the huge positive impacts of a large, well educated science and engineering workforce.

Countries that succeed in producing more quality graduates while creating the best economic environment to take advantage of technology innovation (follow this link – it is one of the most important posts about what makes silicon valley so powerful a force at doing just that) are going to benefit greatly. My guess is the USA will be one of those countries; not by reducing the focus on science and engineering education but by increasing it. If not, other countries will, and the USA will suffer economically. The USA also needs to continue to push the economic and entrepreneurship advantages – doing that well is very difficult to achieve and the USA maintains a stronger advantage in that realm – but I will be very surprised if other countries don’t continue to make gains in this area. Even so doing so is much more challenging than just improving education (which is difficult itself just not nearly as difficult) and the USA can continue to benefit from this combination with the right policies.

Related: Economic Strength Through Technology LeadershipHouse Testimony on Engineering EducationFilling the Engineering GapBest Research University Rankings (2007)Most IT Jobs Ever in USA TodayUSA Under-counting Engineering GraduatesScience, Engineering and the Future of the American EconomyS&P 500 CEOs – Again Engineering Graduates LeadHighest Paid Graduates: Engineers

7 Responses to “The Importance of Science Education”

  1. Vivek Wadhwa
    October 28th, 2007 @ 1:17 pm

    John, the report will be available tomorrow (Monday) at http://www.urban.org/url.cfm?ID=411562

    I agree on the importance of engineering and science. But the problem we have created is that supply exceeds demand and American children don’t have the incentive to complete higher degrees or to join this profession.

    You are right that the U.S. needs to push its education and entrepreneurship advantages, but we aren’t doing that. We are simply blaming our education system while the world changes rapidly and new threats arise to our economic and technological leadership.

    Regards,

    Vivek

  2. curiouscat
    October 28th, 2007 @ 8:32 pm

    Thanks for the comment and the link. I agree blaming our educational system is not productive. I do believe that the USA has to adapt. But also I believe there is no way the USA will retain its the dominant technological leadership it had from 1965 to 1995. Many people around the world now have the chance to compete and win the economic rewards that the USA has largely be able to gain the last 60 years. There are a number of important factors that will determine who gains those rewards but technological leadership is critical.

    At the macro-economic level investing heavily to create science and engineering centers of excellence is very wise (the USA, Europe, China, India, Japan… are going to benefit based on how well they do that). Creating the right economic climate is also important and the USA is in the strongest position in this area. But 20 years ago the science and engineering position of the USA was incredibly strong comparatively. I think others have been making up ground quickly. And I believe they will continue to do so, and that the economy of the USA will suffer due to the extent it loses that comparative advantage.

    Now I actually think the world will be better off if the rest of the world closes the gap by improving faster than the USA. But my guess is policy leaders 50 years from now in the USA will be frustrated by the failure to invest more today. Other countries will create environments where there smart students become scientists and engineers and they are getting much better about keeping them in their country to gain the economic benefits of an advanced technology workforce.

  3. ron
    November 2nd, 2007 @ 2:26 am

    There are two sides to every story. Check this out: Wadhwamania

  4. Curious Cat Science and Engineering Blog » Math and Science Education Assessment
    November 11th, 2007 @ 8:30 pm

    “Conventional wisdom says that U.S. students don”™t measure up well against students in many foreign countries when it comes to math and science skills. But is that really true?…”

  5. CuriousCat » Engineering Education Study Debate
    November 25th, 2007 @ 11:24 am

    As I have said many times the economic future will be greatly influenced by science and engineering. Those countries that succeed in creating a positive economic climate for science and engineering development will find economic rewards those that fail to do so will suffer…

  6. Eliminating NSF Program to Aid K-12 Science Education » Curious Cat Science and Engineering Blog
    October 24th, 2011 @ 6:16 pm

    Sadly the USA is choosing to speed money on things that are likely much less worthwhile to our future economic well being. This has been a continuing trend for the last few decades…

  7. Top Countries for Science and Math Education: Finland, Hong Kong and Korea » Curious Cat Science and Engineering Blog
    March 4th, 2014 @ 7:25 pm

    Results for the Science portion of PISA: 1 ”“ Finland, 2 ”“ Hong Kong, 3 ”“ Japan,
    4 ”“ Korea, 5 ”“ New Zealand

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