Billionaires know what American education should focus on: It’s a four-letter acronym that is set to determine the future of the economy, but America is falling behind. One simple acronym has pretty much become the key to landing a great career with a great salary: STEM.
It’s much more than a broadly sweeping catchall for “science, technology, engineering, and mathematics”.
It’s the Holy Grail of employment and its where these four career paths come together to formulate the greatest progress to date.
That’s why STEM has seen so many celebrities jump on its bandwagon, including Bill Gates, Steve Jobs and Oprah Winfrey, among many others.
They all have the same message for America’s youth: If you want the brightest career, follow STEM.
America won’t win the technology battle with a trade war, or by curtailing the number of Chinese students that get to study in the United States.
America will only win this battle through education, and by creating a situation in which the country does not depend almost entirely on foreign minds for sweeping technological advances.
And that means a stronger push for STEM education.
While China is making moves to bolster STEM education as much as possible, the United States seems to have grown complacent on education, and STEM exists, but is hardly thriving.
In a December 2018 report by the U.S. government’s National Science & Technology Council, the White House recognizes the importance of STEM, noting:
“Now more than ever the innovation capacity of the United States--and its prosperity and security--depends on an effective and inclusive STEM education ecosystem.”
The federal government also recognizes that “individual success in the 21st century economy is also increasingly dependent on STEM literacy; simply to function as an informed consumer and citizen of a world of increasingly sophisticated technology requires the ability to use digital devices and STEM skills such as evidence-based reasoning.”
But somewhere between the report of recognition and the implementation, America’s STEM mission has grown tepid, while China’s is obsessive.
Chinese citizens are motivated to study STEM.
Chinese academics get paid per publication, and if they get published in a Western journal, they can make more than $100,000 for a single paper, according to Nanjing University of Science and Technology research, which says that a paper published in JASIST (Journal of the Association for Information Science and Technology) could see a cash reward that is the equivalent of an entire annual salary for a new professor, while an article published in Nature or Science could bring in 20 times the average university professor’s annual salary.
Americans, it would seem, are expected to simply love and respect science for the reward of discovering the truth. Sometimes that’s not enough to spur intensified science education among more Americans.
It’s not that America lacks colleges and universities that are teaching students in the STEM fields--quite the contrary. The problem is that there aren’t enough American students following this path. Instead, foreign students are benefitting from this education.
Which means, precisely, that the root cause cannot be found in immigration or fair trade; the problem is in instilling the importance of STEM in America’s youth and following that up with hard-core STEM education in America’s elementary schools.
China’s political leadership understands that STEM leadership means power. That’s why China boasted a minimum of 4.7 million STEM graduates as early as 2016. In other words, China is turning out STEM students at a ratio of 1:293, compared to America’s ratio of 1:573. India falls somewhere in between the two.
As of 2017, America had fewer than 570,000 STEM graduates.
The U.S. won’t be winning at global leadership in tech awards in the future at this rate.
That’s something big businesses get when the federal government is lacklustre.
Billionaires want the STEM-educated students, but they think another “E” should be added to the acronym to account for “entrepreneurship”.
A key problem with American STEM is that students are receiving little or no support for developing their ideas.
So, instead of STEM we will have STEEM and an "academic ecosystem that will prepare the minds and nurture the talent, not just as worker bees but as thinkers and creators and pioneers."
Indeed, a 2016 Ernst & Young study confirmed the superiority of the wave of entrepreneurs.
"In surveying the hiring intentions and recent hiring practices of a wide range of young and mature private companies, we find that entrepreneurs are indeed creating jobs. Of the 2,673 entrepreneurs surveyed, almost 6 in 10 (59%) say they intend to increase their workforces in the next 12 months, leading to an aggregate workforce increase of 9.3%, up from 47% and 7.8%, respectively, in 2015," according to the EY study.