Wednesday, May 17, 2006

Our World is Changing. Are We Ready?

In recent years, global competition, especially from China and India, has been causing many Americans to wonder whether we are in danger of losing the tremendous lead, and earning power, we have had over other countries for the past 50 years. To see the future of American business, it's a good idea to begin by taking a look at what is happening in our schools. After all, the future workforce is already there for us to see.

In recent tests of general knowledge, U.S. 12th graders performed well below the international average for 21 countries. In addition, an advanced mathematics assessment conducted in 15 countries revealed that eleven of the 15 countries outperformed U.S. students. In 2004, more than 600,000 engineers graduated from institutions of higher education in China. In India, the figure was 350,000. In the U.S., it was 70,000.

Now, I know what many of you are thinking - our graduating chemists and engineers are better. Perhaps, and perhaps not. Regardless, we need to consider that: 1) many of the functions that businesses need chemists or engineers to perform can be done by average engineers and chemists, and 2) the rest of the world is rapidly upgrading their universities to close the quality gap with regard to education standards.

Is the U.S. ready for global competition? In light of these facts, it doesn't look good. But Americans have a long history of doing amazing (and even seemingly impossible) things once we accept the facts and focus our collective minds and efforts on taking action!