November 22, 2010

Global Success Depends On Empowering Youth

Guest column submitted by U.S. Senator Mike Crapo

With accelerating advancements in technology and the global marketplace, today's youth are essentially preparing for challenges we have not yet seen, and cannot yet imagine. At the same time, market productivity is increasingly dependent on technology. To best enable the U.S. to continue to lead in developing technologies used by the world and, importantly, manufactured in the U.S., our nation must maintain systems that encourage ideas to flourish and promote an educational culture providing the tools and freedom for the spirit of ingenuity to thrive no matter where we choose to live.

According to the National Center for Education Statistics (NCES), the percentage of 25 to 29-year-old Americans who completed a bachelor's degree increased from 17 percent in 1971 to 29 percent in 2009. However, NCES also reported that Hong Kong, Japan, Singapore, Korea and Chinese Taipei outperformed U.S. eighth graders in mathematics, and eight countries--Chinese Taipei, the Czech Republic, England, Hungary, Japan, Korea, Singapore and the Russian Federation--outperformed U.S. eighth graders in science. Further, NCES also found that college enrollment rates were generally lower in rural areas of the U.S., as was the percentage of adults with bachelor's degrees. The message is clear; to remain competitive, we must improve.

A strong math and science educational foundation is essential for excelling in the technological field. Thus, emphasis on high-quality math and science instruction is vital to keeping Idahoans competitive. That is why I supported the America Creating Opportunities to Meaningfully Promote Excellence in Technology, Education and Science (COMPETES) Act that establishes grants to improve elementary and middle school math instruction and assist students who are struggling with math; improves teacher training in math and science; provides grants to increase university degree programs that combine math and science study with concurrent teacher certification programs; and increases support for Advanced Placement programs to expand access for low-income students to take and succeed in college preparatory courses. I also established the Mike Crapo Math and Science Scholarship to benefit Idaho students pursuing a degree in math or science at a higher education institution in Idaho.

Globalization can best work for America if our rural lifestyle can be maintained while people have the ability and access necessary to contribute to the global economy. Technology is essential to this effort. To help prepare Idaho students for future competitiveness, the State of Idaho established the Idaho Education Network (IEN) to improve the ability to learn collaboratively and ensure high-speed access for all students. IEN is meant to remove rural education obstacles by ensuring connectivity to all Idaho colleges, universities and K-12 public schools in every Idaho community. The program provides access to contemporary educational tools and online resources, including streaming video, interactive learning websites and virtual instructional tools. IEN also enables Idaho students to earn college credits while still in high school and broaden their overall educational opportunities. Our children have grown up surrounded by a ubiquitous Internet and an avalanche of social media. We must harness these technologies to focus their efforts and prepare them for the future. Our efforts to ensure that all Idaho students have access to progressive educational tools must not cease.

Every day, we are working to enhance our nation's global competitiveness, but maintaining the technical manpower necessary to compete successfully internationally depends on our young people. Young Americans inherited a heartiness of spirit that enabled the settlement of the West, including Idaho, and the advancement and industrialization of our nation. Every effort must be made to enable this resourcefulness to flourish for our nation to thrive in the global marketplace.

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