US governors: US education needs to get competitive - now

Nation's governors offer a framework for investing in STEM subjects and making education more directly relevant to needs of the workplace.

The message was loud and clear at the National Governors Association this week—the U.S. needs to take immediate action in order to keep up with globalization, reports the Sante Fe New Mexican.

The governors expressed concern that the U.S. is quickly losing pace in the global marketplace and workers lack the skills to innovate and compete. The governors worked out a framework to address these needs. Some of the highlights are:

  • Refocus on science, technology, engineering, math (STEM) and foreign language proficiency. They are seeking programs to encourage students and teachers in those subject matters.
  • Make worker training more flexible, coordinate training with regional needs and make progress measurable.
  • Create federal "competitive innovation grants" to encourage states to develop regional hubs that build on existing strengths, like computer development in North Carolina's Raleigh-Durham area.

Kansas Gov. Kathleen Sebelius, a Democrat, said the key is aligning education with the needs of business so students come out of high schools, community colleges, vocational schools and higher universities with the knowledge for today's business world.

"We are really falling far behind other countries in the world with our skill set for workers," she said.

American students are about two years behind students from other industrialized nations when they graduate.

"These children, we're putting them at a disadvantage. This makes it more than an economic issue, it makes it a moral issue," said William H. Schmidt, a Michigan State University professor who studies education.

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