As American philanthropy continues to expand and corporate foundations seek to address increasingly complex societal problems, these resources can and should be applied to an area that directly affects our national security and quality of life — educational competitiveness.
When it comes to the United States’ ability to compete with other countries in the areas of math and science, alarms bells have been ringing for years.
A critical examination of the United States’ technological infrastructure and its promotion of math and science education suggests the country is steadily losing its competitive edge.
While less than one-third of American undergraduate students earn degrees in science and engineering, nearly 60 percent of Chinese students and roughly two-thirds of Japanese students received degrees in these fields.
These choices are not without consequences.
To stem this tide, America’s corporate foundations can use their considerable resources in a creative, targeted and results-oriented way.
The private sector is, after all, motivated by immediate concerns – namely the sudden loss of qualified job applicants, a decrease in
product innovation, and decreased profits.
Within the last five years, American corporations have realized their unique ability to influence education and they have become
effective instigators of reform.
To date, some of the most effective educational competitiveness efforts are corporate programs that focus on math and science education at the primary and secondary school levels. For example:
- The Mickelson ExxonMobil Teachers Academy, for example, offers innovative teaching strategies to 600 American school teachers each year who are then better able to motivate their students to pursue careers in those fields.
- Honeywell International, Inc. sponsors the Honeywell Educators at Space Academy scholarship program where teachers participate in 40 hours of intensive classroom, laboratory and training time – and then apply these lessons to real classroom situations.
- Ford Motor Company recently partnered with another organization to found a charter school that focuses on creative studies and is tuition-free.
- IBM encourages its employees to develop technology solutions for area schools.
Drawing on the best practices of these and other corporations, it is clear that the private sector can improve math and science education.
These programs are creative, effective and, most importantly, scalable.
By replicating these kinds of programs to reach larger audiences, corporations will provide a needed boost to the education sector, incentivize the next generation of Americans to become more proficient in math and science, and ultimately help to restore the United States’ competitive edge.
Michael Inganamort is an associate at ASG Advisors, a firm that works with corporations and individuals to develop philanthropic programs.