U.S. Education System in Crisis and Endangering Nation Global Competitiveness: U.S. Serious Education & Skills Gap…

“The U.S. is moving toward a third world education system . . . we are not in the top 10 [in education], not even the top 20… and we need to do something dramatic.”  “…until we fix our schools, we will never fix the nation’s broader economic problems.”

Consider these numbers: The United States’ jobless rate is over 9.0+%. Yet for individuals with a bachelor’s degree or higher, the rate is substantially less –under 5%. Conversely, for people who lack a high school diploma, the rate is noticeably higher than 15%. Clearly, education matters: And it matters not just for the job seeker, but the U.S.’s future in the global marketplace is at stake, too.

The U. S. faces challenges on myriad education fronts: High school graduation rates are depressingly low, college remediation rates are rising, adult literacy levels are too low, and the numbers of Americans earning advanced degrees in science and engineering are lower than they have been in years. High school dropout rates in the U. S. are at or near 30%.

Even for those who do graduate from high school and make their way to college, many require some kind of remedial instruction. Making matters even more challenging, the educational attainment level required for jobs continues to rise. Anthony Carnevale, Director of the Georgetown University Center on Education and the Workforce, estimates that by 2018, nearly two-thirds of all jobs in the U. S. will require some form of post-secondary education or training…

In the article “The Key to Global Competitiveness” by Karen Elzey writes: The U. S. has long prided itself on its leadership in innovation. Much of this innovation has come from expertise in science and engineering. America’s lengthy run atop the innovation scoreboard, some suggest, might be near the end. They point to the fact that the nation’s science and engineering workforce is aging.

A serious skills shortage in these fields could be imminent if not enough graduates are produced to replace retiring scientists and engineers. The implications are wide-ranging, even affecting national security. According to the ‘National Science Board’s Science and Engineering Indicators’ report, students from abroad attending American colleges received 24% of master’s degrees in science and engineering, and 33% of doctoral degrees in the two disciplines.

The United States Patent and Trademark Office tells a similar story. In a report issued by IFI Patent Intelligence, 51% of new patents went to companies outside the United States. Of the 10 companies receiving the most patents, only four were American. An economy that emphasizes knowledge requires that everyone should be able to decipher, synthesize and analyze information, and then convey it — clearly and concisely. Innovation and problem solving are built upon such thinking. Not long ago, America topped the list of many key education and innovation indicators.

Today, looking at the same indicators, America is a nation falling behind. And since global competitiveness is certainly a top priority for the nation’s businesses, we need to fix the problem. Simply, the United States cannot compete without strong national policies that support innovation. 

For the United States to stay competitive globally, the U.S. education system — from pre-kindergarten through high school to postsecondary education and job training programs — must adopt new relevant policies. Human capital is the country’s greatest asset. It’s time for the U.S. to take a full accounting of its education system…

According to the “Global Competitiveness Report”, which ranks countries based on a ‘Global Competitiveness Index’; Switzerland leads the ranking as the most competitive economy in the world, and the United States, which ranked first for several years, fell to fifth place due to the consequences of the financial crisis of 2007–2010 and its macroeconomic instability.

China continues its relative rise in the rankings reaching 27th. The report “assesses the ability of countries to provide high levels of prosperity to their citizens.” One part of the report is the ‘Executive Opinion Survey’ which is a survey of a representative sample of business leaders in their respective countries.

Respondent numbers have increased every year and is currently just over 13,500 in 142 countries (2010).  An outcome to be highlighted from the 2010-2011 edition: The U. S. continues the decline that began last year, falling two more places to 4th position. While many structural features still make its economy extremely productive, a number of escalating weaknesses have lowered the U.S. ranking over the past two years…

According to the New York Times colum­nist Tom Fried­man, “the people who are wait­ing for this re­ces­sion to end so some­one can again hand them work could have a long wait. Those with the imag­i­na­tion to make them­selves un­touch­ables — to in­vent smarter ways to do old jobs, en­ergy-sav­ing ways to pro­vide new ser­vices, new ways to at­tract old cus­tomers or new ways to com­bine ex­ist­ing tech­nolo­gies — will thrive.”

There­fore, we not only need a higher per­cent­age of our kids grad­u­at­ing from high school and col­lege — more ed­u­ca­tion — but we need more of them with the ‘right’ ed­u­ca­tion. To be com­pet­i­tive in a global mar­ket­place, the U.S. needs to in­fuse its schools with “en­tre­pre­neur­ship, in­no­va­tion and cre­ativ­ity.” There are many ob­sta­cles for schools that need rethinking, most im­por­tantly:

  • In­ad­e­quate Teacher Prepa­ra­tion, Re­cruit­ment and Re­ten­tion: Pub­lic schools are fail­ing to pro­duce teach­ers who are savvy to the con­tem­po­rary trends.
  • In­suf­fi­cient Adop­tion of Tech­nol­ogy: Tech­nol­ogy is usu­ally misunderstood, sup­pressed, and some­times con­fis­cated.
  • Fo­cus­ing on In­for­ma­tion Re­ten­tion as Op­posed to New Knowl­edge Pro­duc­tion: Disk-drive learn­ing is for com­put­ers. Knowl­edge pro­duc­tion and in­no­va­tion are for hu­mans.
  • Con­tin­u­ous Re­or­ga­ni­za­tion of School Lead­er­ship and Pri­or­i­ties, Par­tic­u­larly in Ur­ban Schools: Se­ri­ous ques­tions can be raised whether traditional schools are the right or­ga­ni­za­tions re­quired to cope with vi­o­lent youth, and in­com­pe­tent, ir­re­spon­si­ble par­ent­ing and neg­a­tive adult role mod­els.
  • Na­tional Ed­u­ca­tion Pri­or­i­ties are Built on an Ide­al­ized Past, not on Emer­gent and De­signed Fu­tures: Blends of ap­plied imag­i­na­tion, cre­ativ­ity, and in­no­va­tion are re­quired to vi­su­al­ize pre­ferred fu­tures, and forge them into em­pir­i­cal re­al­i­ties.
  • So­cial Class and Cul­tural Prob­lems in Schools and Com­mu­ni­ties Sug­gest that the Schools Live in a Nor­man Rock­well Past: It ap­pears that the schools are pop­u­lated by timid, unimag­i­na­tive, lower-mid­dle class pro­fes­sional place­hold­ers who crave ‘con­ven­tion’ over ‘in­ven­tion’.
  • Fail­ing to In­vest Re­sources in Ed­u­ca­tion, both Fi­nan­cial and So­cial: Ed­u­ca­tion is for­mal, in­for­mal, and non-for­mal in struc­ture and func­tion. It is pos­si­ble that for­mal ed­u­ca­tion will be rec­og­nized as the least pow­er­ful of this trio.

In the article “Education Models Are Key to Nation’s Global Competitiveness” by Dr. Melvyn D. Schiavelli writes: Groundbreaking ideas generated by innovative minds will influence the lives and livelihoods of generations of Americans, paying enormous dividends as our nation seeks to strengthen its ability to compete in the global economy.

The national study, ‘Tapping America’s Potential: The Education for Innovation Initiative’ findings say that if current trends continue, more than 90% of all scientists and engineers in the world will be living in Asia. Moreover, recent studies by the ‘American Association for the Advancement of Science’ report that the U.S. science and engineering labor pool is getting older and that interest in these fields among younger people has waned. In order to keep that labor force strong and globally competitive, it is essential to recruit and cultivate future scientists and engineers into the pool of talent.

Employers in a global economy value college graduates that bring a combination of specialized technical aptitudes, adaptability, and business skills to the workforce. The solution is to motivate U.S. students and adults, using a variety of incentives, to study and enter science, technology, engineering and mathematics careers. This will require new approaches to higher education and new thinking about traditional undergraduate degree programs…

In the article “U.S.: How to Win the Global Competition for Talent” by Sarah King writes: In the report ‘The Global Competition for Talent’ by John A Douglass and Richard Edelstein, they underline the strategic importance for the U.S. to invest in higher education in order to continue capitalizing on the global pool of mobile students.

Although recent statistics suggest that American colleges and universities are again attracting foreign talent after several years of declining or stagnant enrolments, there is no denying that higher education markets are shifting away from the U.S. – especially in response to the evolving global recession.

These shifts bode badly for long-term economic growth, the report argues, and contrast with a past in which the immigration of talented students and professionals allowed the U.S. to build – and reap economic benefits from – a highly skilled workforce. As new economies compete more for the international flow of talent and invest more in educational attainment and human capital, theU.S. is poised to lose its competitive edge unless it develops a coherent higher education strategy.

Marlene M. Johnson, the Executive Director and CEO of NASFA, ‘Association of International Educators’, has noted that “the number of international students in theU.S. matters because it is a surrogate for competitiveness.” 

The U.S. has a serious education and skills gap, and research is finding that employers report nearly half (42%) of high school graduates lack the skills they needed to make a successful transition to the workforce.  Even among those recent college graduates, employers say only 24% have an “excellent” grasp of basic knowledge and applied skills.

Recent research by McKinsey and Company found that for the public school system to succeed there must be a stronger focus on attracting, hiring and retaining talented teachers… In the report by ‘Partnership for 21st Century Skills, Education & Competitiveness’, which includes education organizations and high-tech companies among its members, argues the U. S. ability to create an education system that produces better-prepared students is the ‘central economic competitiveness issue’ facing the nation.

In a fu­ture dri­ven by glob­al­iza­tion, knowl­edge, in­no­va­tion, and ac­cel­er­at­ing change: The U.S. ed­u­ca­tion system must be structured, aligned, and disciplined to meet the evolving individual (jobs) & national (competitiveness) needs within the highly competitive global marketplace…

Tom Fried­man is right: “The world is flat….” The phe­nom­e­non of glob­al­iza­tion com­pels stu­dents and schools to com­pete on a global scale. Why do we in­sist on prepar­ing stu­dents for jobs that ex­isted be­fore they were born in­stead of for jobs that will ex­ist when they fin­ish school?