America's future on the line: Obama
Washington: US President Barack Obama said the future of America is on the line as several countries are in the process of out-educating it today and thus would out-compete it tomorrow and urged his countrymen to focus more on maths and science.
"Our future is on the line. The nation that out-educates us today is going to out-compete us tomorrow. To continue to cede our leadership in education is to cede our position in the world. That's not acceptable to me and I know it's not acceptable to any of you," Obama said at a meeting held at the White House yesterday.
He said his administration has set a clear goal "to move from the middle to the top of the pack in science and math education over the next decade."
Whether it's improving our health or harnessing clean energy, protecting our security or succeeding in the global economy, Obama said, our future depends on reaffirming US' role as the world's engine of scientific discovery and technological innovation.
That leadership tomorrow depends on how the US educate its students today, especially in math, science, technology, and engineering, he said, adding that despite the importance of education in these subjects, the US right now is being outpaced by its competitors. One assessment shows American 15-year-olds now ranked 21st in science and 25th in math when compared to their peers around the world, he said.
"That's not acceptable."
And year-after-year, the gap between the number of teachers we have and the number of teachers we need in these areas is widening, Obama said, adding the shortfall is projected to climb past a quarter of a million teachers in the next five years -- and that gap is most pronounced in predominately poor and minority schools.
Obama said his administration has launched a USD 4 billion Race to the Top fund, one of the largest investments in education reform in history.
Through the Race to the Top, states are competing for funding and producing the most innovative programs in science and math will be an advantage in this competition, as will allowing scientists and statisticians and engineers to more easily become teachers, he said.
To help educators already in the classroom, Intel is launching a 10-year, USD 200 million campaign to train math and science teachers in all 50 states to better use new technologies and techniques in their lessons plans, he said.
PBS and the National Science Teachers Association will also create a new online platform so science and math teachers can share best practices and learn from one another, he said.
To bring more educators into the classroom, the National Math and Science Initiative is working with Texas Instruments and the Dell Foundation to prepare almost 5,000 new math and science teachers in the next five years through a program that allows young people to earn teaching certificates and science degrees at the same time.
Presidents from more than 75 of the largest public universities in the country have committed to produce thousands of additional science and math teachers at their institutions.
The Woodrow Wilson National Fellowship Foundation is expanding with the help of several states and non-profits to place more math and science teachers in more high-need schools, he said.
Obama called on all 200,000 scientists who work for the federal government to do their part in their communities: to speak at schools, to create hands-on learning opportunities through efforts like National Lab Day, and to help stoke that same curiosity in students which perhaps led them to pursue a career in science in the first place.
NASA would also be launching an enrichment program to bring their scientists and engineers to students in the classroom and to bring students to NASA, so that they might experience that same sense of wonder and excitement while maybe learning a little bit at the same time, he said.
Obama said the White House is planning an annual science fair to honour the student winners of national science and technology competitions.