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IT pros address gathering storm

Lack of incoming students to math and science discipline takes center stage at Microsoft summit. The problem: Even in the Internet age, IT isn't seen as sexy.
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Written by ZDNet Editors, Contributors on
There has been a lot of discussion about the lack of student interest in math and science courses, and U.S. competitiveness relative to China, India and other Asian countries. It's an issue that movers and shakers in computer science tooks up recently in a discussion of last year's report by the National Academies of Science, Medicine and Engineering.

The panel discussion, held at Microsoft's Redmond campus, included Microsoft executive Craig Mundie, the White House's Science and Technology Policy Office's associate director, the CEO of the National Center for Women & Information Technology, the dean of UC Berkeley's engineering college, and Dan Mote, the president of the University of Maryland and a co-author of the report, Information Week reports.

"Students do not see opportunity in our field," said Mote. The lack of interest is going to affect the math and computer science fields in the future, he said.

The report, "Rising Above the Gathering Storm," recommends recruiting 10,000 science and math teachers each year by awarding new college scholarships; creating mini-scholarships to encourage more students to pass advanced placement tests; increasing federal spending on basic research in math, the physical sciences, and IT; and providing new research grants of $500,000 to 200 outstanding young researchers each year.

The report also recommended boosting college scholarships to U.S. students in the math and science fields.

Lucy Sanders, CEO of the National Center for Women & Information Technology said that part of the lack of interest is because "computer science is a stealth profession—no one really knows what we do." K-12 schools provide very little computer science education—most instruction covers computer literacy, which isn't the same as computer fluency, said Sanders.

Reacting to the report, President Bush announced the American Competitiveness Initiative, a bill that would commit $5.9 billion in new government spending on research and development and education during the 2007 fiscal year, and raising the National Science foundation budget about 7 percent.

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