"The harsh fact is that the U.S. need for the highest quality human capital in science, mathematics, and engineering is not being met."
- U.S. Commission on National Security for the 21st Century
As reported in FYI #21, a new report by the Commission on National Security for the 21st Century makes a series of recommendations to improve the government's ability to address the national security challenges of the new century. Several major recommendations deal with the nation's scientific research and education enterprises. FYI #22addressed the recommendations for the research enterprise; this FYI highlights the specific recommendations for education, along with supporting quotes from the report.
I. "The President should propose, and Congress should pass, a National Security Science and Technology Education Act (NSSTEA) with four sections: reduced-interest loans and scholarships for students to pursue degrees in science, mathematics, and engineering; loan forgiveness and scholarships for those in these fields entering government or military service; a National Security Teaching Program to foster science and math teaching at the K-12 level; and increased funding for professional development for science and math teachers."
The Commission's report states that "the capacity of America's educational system to create a 21st century workforce second to none in the world is a national security issue of the first order. As things stand, this country is forfeiting that capacity." The report points to a need for producing more scientists and engineers and, to do this, the need for more and better qualified science and math teachers. "Education is the foundation of America's future," it states. "Quality education in the humanities and social sciences is essential in a world made increasingly 'smaller' by advances in communication and in global commerce. But education in science, mathematics, and engineering has special relevance for the future of U.S. national security, for America's ability to lead depends particularly on the depth and breadth of its scientific and technical communities."
The report adds, "The nation is on the verge of a downward spiral in which current shortages will beget even more acute future shortages of high-quality professionals and competent teachers. The word 'crisis' is much overused, but it is entirely appropriate here. If the United States does not stop and reverse negative educational trends - the general teacher shortage, and the downward spiral in science and math education and performance - it will be unable to maintain its position of global leadership over the next quarter century." The Commission recognizes the importance of teacher professional development, and identifies the Department of Education's Eisenhower Program as "a good example of a program that works. It should be expanded and resourced accordingly." The report also commends the work of the Glenn Commission on mathematics and science teaching, particularly its emphasis on "Summer Institutes as well as Inquiry Groups and distance learning...for on-going professional education." The report suggests that Congress "establish and fund a National Math & Science Project" to provide school districts and universities with effective professional development models, and it advocates a system of "professional enrichment sabbaticals" for K-12 science teachers.
II. "The President should direct the Department of Education to work with the states to devise a comprehensive plan to avert a looming shortage of quality teachers. This plan should emphasize raising teacher compensation, improving infrastructure support, reforming the certification process, and expanding existing programs targeted at districts with especially acute problems."
"It is clear," the report says, "that if the general national teacher shortage problem is not addressed, efforts to address deficiencies in the science and mathematics arena will not be met either. One cannot significantly improve the quality of science and math education without improving education in general." The report also advocates raising teacher salaries "to or near commercial levels," improving the working environment and restoring professional status for teachers, and creating more flexible certification processes.
III. "The President and Congress should devise a targeted program to strengthen the historically black colleges and universities in our country, and should particularly support those that emphasize science, mathematics, and engineering."
The report notes that "increasing numbers of the qualified engineers and scientists educated in the United States are coming from outside U.S. borders," and raises concerns about America's ability to produce a sufficient high-tech workforce in the future. The Commission believes "strongly that America's future depends on the ability of its educational system to produce students who constantly challenge current levels of innovation and push the limits of technology and discovery."
The full report, "Road Map for National Security: Imperative for Change," is available at http://www.nssg.gov