U.S. educators, politicians and employers have long been concerned about the future of math and science education in this country, after a series of reports have suggested that student achievement in science, technology, engineering and mathematics -- or STEM subjects -- trails behind many other developed nations.
The latest data published earlier this month showed that 15-year-old Americans are outperformed by 29 nations in math and by 22 nations in science, reported Education Week.
So in an attempt to maintain the US’ competitiveness, and in response to predictions of future talent shortages, individuals and organizations across the country have recently launched a flurry of initiatives aimed at strengthening STEM education.
Just last week, President Obama kicked off the annual Computer Science Education Week, telling students in a YouTube video that, "Learning these skills isn’t just important for your future. It's important for our country's future."
Several nonprofits encourage students to spend at least one hour during the week learning programming skills. In conjunction with the initiative, Chicago Mayor Rahm Emanuel announced that computer science would be added to the city's public school core curriculum.
"This plan will help us compete with countries like China and the UK, where children take coding classes in elementary school, and create an environment where we can help support the next Bill Gates, Mark Zuckerberg, and Marissa Mayer," Emanuel said in a statement.
Meanwhile, in the realm of higher education, a new prize launched by Facebook CEO Mark Zuckerberg and investor Yuri Milner aims to incentivize breakthroughs in mathematics. The winners will be awarded $3 million each for their work.
Talent for the Technology Economy
"I think in the long-run, every industry becomes a technology industry," Marc Andreessen, general partner at venture capital firm Andreessen Horowitz, said at a tech conference last week. His vision for the future is what many lawmakers and companies seem to be preparing for.
In 2020, there will be one million more computer science jobs than computer science students, according to code.org, nonprofit that promotes computer science education. It's clear that statistics like these are partly responsible for inspiring initiatives that aim to boost greater STEM interest in schools.
"Every day in [Chicago Public Schools] and classrooms I see the next generation of innovators, researchers, and thinkers who will move Chicago forward," Chicago Public Schools CEO Barbara Byrd Bennett said in a statement about the city's addition of computer science to the curriculum.
"By expanding access to computer science and coding, we are providing equal opportunity for every child to receive the skills necessary to compete in this rapidly evolving, tech-driven economy."