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For years United States has been praised as the world leader in higher education but now it is no longer a world leader in college completion. China and India are moving at a faster rate in terms of economy, education and development. Higher education has always been a part of the countries economic development but now it is the heart of new knowledge based economy. Majority of the employers today look for employees who has got broader set of skills with high levels of learning and knowledge.so such rapidly growing importance of human skills and knowledge is increasingly seen as a key factor to the economic wealth in the global knowledge based economy which is also going to determine the economic future of the country
Every year of an individual schooling raises his or her lifetime income by 10 percent, which implies that even with heavy amount of loans to pay and increasing costs, education is a better private investment with good return of investment in a long run. Apart from being a good private investment it is also a great public investment because a better work force with improved skills, abilities and knowledge is better for the growing economy of the country. More research needs to be done in these areas.
USHE system which had lead the world for the past fifty years and it being no more a world leader is unacceptable. More has to be done to provide the finest education not only to the select group but also to every American with the skills they need to succeed in the most competitive global economy. Education needs to be more easily accessible to the fastest growing segment of the population, the minorities and the low-income students who have been least successful in education.
The keys areas of higher educations that I would like to explore and research further in a way that would help to build a new foundation for the 21st century education system are technology, distance learning, STEM courses.
I think that technology when used innovatively and efficiently can transform education and training in a similar way it transformed the industrial sector. With the cost of computing, storing and broadband has gone down and became more affordable to most of the population. Technology can be used study and analyze data to transform it in to useful information that can be used in providing students, instructors, institutions, states and government. Technology can used to deliver smarter classroom system in providing more instrumental, interconnected and intelligent information which can improve the quality and accessibility of the education system. Using sensors and alerts institutions can collect analyze and monitor operational data directly from originating source anywhere in the institution. More needs to be done for developing, identifying and scaling up effective practices. One of the areas in technology where we can make considerable difference is making technology available and affordable to each and every section of the population. A majority of the students find it difficult to pay for the tuition, fees, accommodation and for the text books. If we can make use of the technology and digitalize majority of the text books, then we will be successful in lowering some portion of the debt that a student pays. Recently in India, the Indian government launched a $35 laptop developed by Indian Institute of Technology which will give the students a better convenient education with technical skills required to boost the country's economy. The plan is to even subsidize the price to $10 in an effort to make the laptop available to students from elementary schools to university level. The project which is similar to One Laptop per Child can astronomically improve the troubled education system whether it may be for India or United States.
Many students and working adults who want to go back to college are choosing online programs. Distance learning through online programs makes education easily accessible and affordable to most sections of the population. Most of the working adults and single moms and elderly populations step backward going back to college because of the reasons like how they are going to fit in to the college environment, how they are going to adjust their daily work schedule with college. Distance learning makes education more convenient in a way that students can choose their study time according to their daily work schedule. The cost of commuting to the college and time to commute to the college is taken of or eliminated. Though the initial cost of developing learning material and resources is high, in a long run it is economical as they can be used for a greater period of time and for maximum number of students. On the other hand more research needs to be done on how effective are these distance learning courses when compared to on ground courses. Are the individuals attaining the same level of knowledge and skills that are attained on ground and how well are institutions faculty prepared to manage and respond to the large amount of online data that they receive during the course of an online program? And how institutions are prepared to deal with the copyright or intellectual property rights policy if any of such kind occurs during the course of the online program.
STEM (Science, Technology, Engineering, and Math) Education:
Until recently United States has been comfortable with the way the education system has been developing, but things have changed. In order to compete with the 21st century kids around the world, our kids need to be able to do better in the STEM related courses. The economic stability of the country is going to directly depend on how good we are in STEM fields. United States ranks 28th in math literacy and 24th in science literacy among the 15 year old students and it ranks 20th among the 24 year olds who earn the degrees in science and engineering fields. The large percentage of the secondary school students are not making up to a level of proficiency in math and science and they are taught by teachers who are not adequately efficient in STEM fields .There are less number of highly qualified STEM teachers and very few students are graduating from programs related to STEM and very few are working in jobs related to STEM. Because of this, many companies are employing STEM workers from abroad. United States has to adopt internationally benchmarked standards for educating students so that once graduated they are ready to enter the ever changing world of technological work force. And to achieve this change has to come from the students, parents and institutions so that they can view the modern day education system. Work has to be done to increase the graduation rates related to STEM. On September 16th, 2010 President Obama announced the launch of "Change the Equation", an effort which is part of "Educate to Innovate" campaign to dramatically improve education in the STEM fields. Chance in Equation focus on improving STEM teaching at all grade levels, inspiring student appreciation and excitement for STEM courses , especially among the low income group and women. As part of the same "Educate to Innovate" campaign, on September 27th 2010, President Obama announced a new goal to recruit 10,000 STEM teachers over the next two years which is part of his goal to recruit 100,000 STEM teachers over the next decade.
These positive initiatives taken by the Government will definitely lead to development in the STEM field, saying that much work needs to be done from students, institutions and parents point. Much needs to be studied so that we can encourage students, parents towards the STEM field.
In my view, among all priorities that plays an important role in developing the United States education system in to 21st century learning system, Technology is going to play a major contributor which is going to make a big difference how colleges are run, students are taught, and eventually apply those skills and knowledge they have learnt in the course of their learning. I would like to explore in this area of technology when more research needs to be done that will help make learning accessible and affordable to the students , help institutions to make use of the technology in delivering innovative learning methods and also analyze institutional data in a intelligent way and make use of it to improve academic standards.