This week, President Obama traveled around the country, from Albuquerque to Des Moines to Richmond, where he met with families in their neighborhoods to discuss the issues that matter most to them. In addition to the economy, education was a recurring topic of discussion, and for good reason. As President Obama has said, strengthening our education system is probably the single biggest factor affecting the future success of our nation. In short, it’s a game-changer.
A key component of the President’s education reform effort includes improving student performance in STEM fields—the fields of science, technology, engineering and math. STEM education is vital to preparing future generations to compete in the 21st century economy. And yet, American students continue to fall behind in math and science when compared to their peers in other countries. Overall, the U.S. has slipped from 1st to 9th in the industrialized world with regard to our proportion of college graduates. For this reason, the President has set the goal to once again have the highest proportion of college graduates in the world by 2020.
Spurring the interest and engagement of girls in STEM education and a related career-path is of particular importance for the White House Council on Women and Girls. At colleges and universities, young women account for only 11 percent of civil engineering students, 8 percent of math students, and 7 percent of physics students. Consequently, fewer than 20 percent of women are in science and engineering careers, with African-American and Hispanic women only accounting for percent respectively.
If women’s interests and talents in STEM are not nurtured now, then their ability to get and retain the best job opportunities in the future will be limited, as will America’s ability to compete with the rest of the world.
To address this, last year the Administration launched a new, national effort to improve STEM education, focused on building public-private partnerships to help America advance through math and science education. This effort will also focus on expanding opportunities for girls and minorities in STEM. And on Monday, the President announced a new goal of helping to recruit and prepare 10,000 STEM teachers over the next two years, moving us closer to the goal of preparing 100,000 STEM teachers over the next decade.
To achieve these goals, we will need your help. President Obama has said repeatedly that success in this endeavor will not be attained by government alone. It will be attained by parents, teachers, business and community leaders, non-profits and others, all working together to make a difference. To learn more about the Obama Administration’s education efforts please checkout other Senior Administration Officials posts at http://obamawhitehouse.archives.gov/blog/issues/Education.
Tina Tchen is Director of the White House Office of Public Engagement and Executive Director of the Council on Women and Girls