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President Obama: U.S. Needs to Improve Science Education
Jan 7, 2010
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In a speech given to educators at the White House on Tuesday, President Barak Obama said the U.S. needs to improve math, science, and engineering education if it wants to be competitive.

“Whether it's improving our health or harnessing clean energy, protecting our security or succeeding in the global economy, our future depends on reaffirming America's role as the world's engine of scientific discovery and technological innovation,” the president said. “And that leadership tomorrow depends on how we educate our students today, especially in math, science, technology, and engineering.”

The President clearly stated that the U.S. is quickly 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. That's not acceptable,” he said.

“The nation that out-educates us today is going to out-compete us tomorrow,” he added.

The President described several initiatives specifically aimed at reforming math and science education.

The first is the $4 billion Race to the Top fund, in which states compete for funding. “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,” the President said. “We want states and school districts to start being more creative about how they can attract more science and math teachers.”

The second initiative is an expansion of the "Educate to Innovate" campaign, a nationwide effort by citizens, non-for-profits, universities, and companies to help America reclaim a top spot in math and science education. Thanks to several new public-private partnerships, support for the campaign has doubled to more than half a billion dollars in private funding.

Intel, for example, is launching a 10-year, $200 million campaign to train math and science teachers to better use new technologies and techniques in their lessons plans. PBS and the National Science Teachers Association are creating new online platform so science and math teachers can share best practices and learn from one another.

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. In addition, presidents from more than 75 of the largest public universities in the country have committed to produce more science and math teachers at their institutions

The President concluded by encouraging scientists to get more involved in the education system and by personally vowing to promote the teaching profession to young Americans.

“Every person in this room remembers a moment in which an educator showed them something about the world -- or something about themselves -- that changed their lives,” the President said. “And innovators…are made in those moments. Scientists and engineers are made in those moments; doctors are made in those moments; teachers are made in those moments -- those small interactions.”

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