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US business world calls for doubling of maths and science graduates by 2015

A group of 15 leading business organisations in the US have just published an action plan for the doubling of the number of mathematics, science, engineering and technology graduates by 2015. The plan, entitled “Tapping America’s potential: The Education for Innovation initiative”, states that the role of the United States as the world’s scientific leader is being undermined by other countries which are demonstrating a greater commitment to building their brainpower. The document cites some indicators that the United States is losing its innovative edge (the decreasing number of engineering degrees awarded, the fact that the United States is too dependent on foreign students and talent, and decline of financial support from the government for basic research in the physical sciences).

The action plan focuses on five areas:

  • Build public support for making maths, engineering, science and technology improvement a national priority;
  • motivate US students and adults to study and enter careers in these disciplines;
  • upgrade elementary and secondary teaching in these disciplines to foster higher student achievement;
  • reform visa and immigration policies to enable the US to attract and retain top students from around the world to study and stay to work in the US;
  • boost and sustain funding for basic research, especially in the physical sciences and engineering.

The group states that the United States should respond to these challenges as “energetically as (the United States) did to the Soviet Union’s launching of Sputnik in the 1950s”, when they signed into law the National Defense Education Act, the aim of which was to restore America’s scientific pre-eminence by providing financial support to all levels of education.

It is interesting to note that educational benchmarks of this sort are becoming more common across the world. The EU has, as part of the Lisbon Strategy, also set itself the aim of increasing the number of science and maths graduates (though by a modest 15%, until 2010).

Tapping America's potential: the Education for Innovation initiative