Thursday, October 13, 2005

National Academies Panel Sounds Alarm On Science Education

The Committee on Prospering in the Global Economy of the 21st Century, was created by the National Academy of Sciences and the National Academy of Engineering at the behest of members of Congress from both parties. It included 20 of the nation's most prominent business leaders, educators and scientists, including three Nobel Prize winners. It has just issued a report, Rising Above The Gathering Storm: Energizing and Employing America for a Brighter Economic Future.

From the press release:
The unmatched vitality of the United States' economy and science and technology enterprise has made this country a world leader for decades, allowing Americans to benefit from a high standard of living and national security. But in a world where advanced knowledge is widespread and low-cost labor is readily available, U.S. advantages in the marketplace and in science and technology have begun to erode. A comprehensive and coordinated federal effort is urgently needed to bolster U.S. competitiveness and pre-eminence in these areas so that the nation will consistently gain from the opportunities offered by rapid globalization...

· For the cost of one chemist or one engineer in the United States, a company can hire about five chemists in China or 11 engineers in India.

· Last year chemical companies shuttered 70 facilities in the United States and have tagged 40 more for closure. Of 120 chemical plants being built around the world with price tags of $1 billion or more, one is in the United States and 50 are in China.

· U.S. 12th-graders recently performed below the international average for 21 countries on a test of general knowledge in mathematics and science. In addition, an advanced mathematics assessment was administered to students in 15 other countries who were taking or had taken advanced math courses, and to U.S. students who were taking or had taken pre-calculus, calculus, or Advanced Placement calculus. Eleven countries outperformed the United States, and four scored similarly. None scored significantly below the United States.

· In 1999 only 41 percent of U.S. eighth-graders had a math teacher who had majored in mathematics at the undergraduate or graduate level or studied the subject for teacher certification -- a figure that was considerably lower than the international average of 71 percent.

· Last year more than 600,000 engineers graduated from institutions of higher education in China. In India, the figure was 350,000. In America, it was about 70,000.

· In 2001 U.S. industry spent more on tort litigation than on research and development.

Without a major push to strengthen the foundations of America's competitiveness, the United States could soon lose its privileged position. The ultimate goal is to create new, high-quality jobs for all citizens by developing new industries that stem from the ideas of exceptional scientists and engineers.
But who's listening?

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