National Security Risks Flagged in Education System

National Security
Empty desks in a classroom | Image by hxdbzxy/Shutterstock

American students are failing to keep up with their peers in competitor countries like China, and this failure is threatening to become a national security issue, according to a recent report.

In a national poll of teachers conducted by the Walton Family Foundation, 40% said schools are failing to guide students in ways that will help them have successful careers as working adults, per RealClearEducation (RCED).

The U.S. is especially falling behind in the areas of science, technology, engineering, and math (STEM).

A Georgetown University study found that China will have produced 77,000 STEM graduates by 2025 versus only 40,000 in the U.S., according to the Associated Press. The outlook is even more bleak when one considers that more than half of U.S. doctoral degrees in economics, computer sciences, engineering, mathematics, and statistics go to international students on temporary visas.

In response to this challenge, the Biden administration has attempted to attract even more international students to its shores in order to compete with China, per the Associated Press.

However, some stakeholders recommend a more homegrown strategy for increasing STEM-ready students by focusing on reforming the K-12 education system in the U.S.

Education experts gathering at the Aspen Security Forum have formulated a strategy to increase U.S. competitiveness as a matter of national security. The details of the strategy are explained in a report called “Re-Engineering American Security: Cultivating Talent for Competitiveness.”

In the report, the Aspen Strategy Group describes a plan that utilizes strategies that boost innovation, education, and national security. Explaining that nexus, the report states:

“Technology has always determined which country is the leading global power. From Roman roads to British steamships, the most advanced technology has underpinned hard power and, in turn, national security. … Faced with the revival of great power competition and a near-peer competitor in China, America must act boldly to maintain our advantage and thus protect our national security.”

Lawmakers could use the National Defense Authorization Act (NDAA) to fund the Defense Advanced Research Projects Agency as a massive effort to transform the way schools approach math and the sciences, per RCED.

The Aspen report argues that to compete with China in the STEM fields, the U.S. must do a better job of educating starting at an early age. It recommends that the NDAA, which already supports Junior Reserve Officers’ Training Corps (JROTC), can do more to help educators successfully teach STEM skills to middle and high schoolers.

“If we can intervene early with adaptive learning tools that teach students based on their learning style, we can put more students back on track for STEM pathways,” it suggests.

The report also recommends that STEM initiatives not be limited to promoting college. Rather, it suggests that clear federal guidelines be established so that technical education training programs are effectively funded and connected to the entire education process from K through grade 12.

“We must include more flexible pathways for students to attain the skills they need outside of college,” the report states near its conclusion.

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