A new organization led by major CEOs is hoping to make the U.S. more competitive around the world by putting the focus on education.
Announced by President Obama yesterday as part of his "Educate to Innovate" campaign, Change the Equation is a nonprofit group whose goal is to improve education in the key areas of science, technology, engineering, and math (STEM). Founded by former Intel Chairman Craig Barrett and Xerox CEO Ursula Burns among other chief executives, and funded by the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation and Carnegie Corporation, the group's membership includes 100 key industry CEOs.
The general goals of Change the Equation are three-fold, according to the White House:
- Great teaching: Improve STEM teaching at all grade levels;
- Inspired Learners: Inspire student appreciation and excitement for STEM, especially among women and under-represented minorities
- A Committed Nation: Achieve a sustained commitment to improve STEM education.
More specifically, the group is looking to launch several privately funded programs across 100 schools and communities where the need is the greatest. The programs would help students enroll in and pass more advanced science and math courses and encourage them to compete in robotics contests. They would also try to increase the number of teachers with STEM undergraduate degrees and enhance professional training and development for math and science teachers.
The group also wants to create state-by-state "scorecards" to highlight areas for improvement and help private companies get more involved in STEM education.
Several companies and organizations have already committed time and resources to the cause. A group of science museums will offer 2 million hours of science training to students across the country. Hewlett-Packard will launch a nationwide volunteer program, providing matching donations for employees who donate their time to the STEM effort. A group of other companies, including Microsoft and AMD, will start two annual competitions focused on playing and designing video games to increase STEM learning, with $50,000 in prize money available for student designers.
Noting that the U.S. has fallen behind other countries in STEM subjects, Obama said that a good foundation in these areas is needed for the country to compete in the global economy.
"We know how important this is for our health," said the president in launching Change the Equation. "It's important for our security. It's important for our environment. And we know how important it is for our economy."