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Changing the Equation in STEM Education

September 20, 2010 - 11:34am

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Editor's Note: This is a cross post of an announcement that the White House featured on its blog last week. Check out the video below for Secretary Chu's thoughts on how an education in math and science helps students understand the world and deal with the pressing issues of our time.

Today, President Obama announced the launch of Change the Equation, a CEO-led effort to dramatically improve education in science, technology, engineering, and math (STEM), as part of his “Educate to Innovate” campaign. Change the Equation is a non-profit organization dedicated to mobilizing the business community to improve the quality of STEM education in the United States.

The United States is falling behind our foreign competitors in STEM subjects. According to one, study American 15-year-olds ranked 21st in science and 25th in math compared to other countries. In his remarks to day, the President emphasized the importance of providing American students with a solid foundation in these subjects in order to compete in the global economy:

We’re here for a simple reason: Everybody in this room understands that our nation’s success depends on strengthening America’s role as the world’s engine of discovery and innovation. And all the CEOs who are here today understand that their company’s future depends on their ability to harness the creativity and dynamism and insight of a new generation.

And that leadership tomorrow depends on how we educate our students today -- especially in science, technology, engineering and math.

We know how important this is for our health. It’s important for our security. It’s important for our environment. And we know how important it is for our economy. As I discussed this morning with my Export Council, our prosperity in a 21st century global marketplace depends on our ability to compete with nations around the world. And we are never going to win that competition by paying the lowest wages or simply by trying to offer the cheapest products. We’re going to win by offering the most innovative products. We’re going to win by doing what we do best, which is harnessing the talents and ingenuity of our people to lead the world in new industries. That’s how we can create millions of new jobs exporting more of our goods around the world.

President Barack Obama speaks at the announcement of the "Change the Equation" initiative in the South Court Auditorium of the White House. The initiative seeks to improve science, technology, engineering and math (STEM) education to better prepare students to lead in the 21st century economy. September 16, 2010. (Official White House Photo by Pete Souza)

The President also emphasized the importance of the government working together with teachers, parents, students and businesses to achieve these goals:

What I’ve also said for a long time is that our success will not be attained by government alone. It depends on teachers and parents and students and the broader community. It depends on us restoring an insistence on excellence in our classrooms and from our children.

And that’s why last year I challenged scientists and business leaders to think of creative ways to engage young people in math and science. And now they are answering the call.

All across this country, companies and nonprofits are coming together to replicate successful science programs. New public/private partnerships are working to offer additional training to more than 100,000 teachers and to prepare more than 10,000 new teachers in the next five years.

Media companies are creating content to inspire young people in math and science. And businesses are working with nonprofits to launch robotics competitions and other ways for kids to make things and learn with their hands.

So now we’re building on this effort. The business leaders gathered in this room with this board at the helm are launching a new organization called “Change the Equation” to help our country reach the goal of moving to the top in math and science education. It brings together a coalition of more than a hundred CEOs from the nation’s largest companies who are committed to bring innovative math and science programs to at least a hundred high-need communities over the next year.

Katelyn Sabochik is Deputy Director, Online Programs for the White House.

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