Excuse for offshoring or call to action?

Following, there is an excerpt from a letter Craig R. Barrett, Intel's Chairman, sent to Business Week, in which he is addressing the need for corporate involvement in what, and how, the US educational system turns out specialists:
Science Grads, Where Are You?
[...] But their achievements do not tell the whole story about the American education system. The Intel STS finalists are the exception, not the rule. In fact, American K-12 students are consistently outperformed by their foreign counterparts on international math and science assessments.

ERODING RESOURCE. We also have a graduation gap: While the number of jobs requiring technical skills is increasing, fewer American students are entering -- and graduating from -- degree programs in science, math, and engineering.

Why does this matter? Science and technology are the engines of economic growth and national security in the U.S., and we are no longer producing enough qualified graduates to keep up with the demand. These graduates -- like the Intel STS students -- represent a resource vital to American competitiveness that is eroding at home while being produced more rapidly and efficiently abroad.

For the past three decades, about one-third of U.S. bachelor's degrees have been granted in science and engineering. Asian nations far outstrip that figure, with China at 59% in 2001, South Korea at 46% in 2000, and Japan at 66% in 2001.

LOSING GROUND. Of those degrees, the number awarded in engineering also varied greatly: In China engineering accounted for 65% of all science and engineering degrees; in South Korea for 58%; and in Japan for 29%. In the U.S. that figure is less than 5%.

How did we get here? A report released earlier this year by Achieve, a nonprofit organization that helps states raise academic standards, contends that we have institutionalized low performance through low expectations. Our high schools expect only a small number of students to take the advanced math and science courses such as algebra and geometry.

Another Achieve study showed that much of the math content on state high school exit exams is basic at best -- similar to material covered by foreign students in the eighth grade.

GET INVOLVED. America's economic future lies with its next generation of workers and their ability to develop new technologies and products. This means we must strengthen math and science education in the U.S.

We must increase the number of students who can compete on a global level by, for example, adopting the goal of doubling the number of engineering graduates each year from some 50,000 to 100,000 or more. This requires the support of elected officials, but changes of this scale cannot occur without action from the business community. [...]
Despite similar calls coming from other leaders in the industry, not much has happened to show greater corporate involvement into tuning up the educational system to the industry needs. To date, only IBM has announced a program whereby its elder employees, with advanced degrees in science, could opt in for early retirement on the condition they go and serve as high-school teachers. Are these initiatives enough to bring about change? Are they meant to persuade lawmakers, students and parents, or directly effect the desired change? How realistic is it to expect a solution and how that solution may look like? N.B. Industry leaders are aware of the amount of time it would take to turn things 180o in education if we started doing things right today (~20 years).

Check out the comments!


a math teacher, formerly on H1B said...

we've been telling/shouting everyone who cares about the mess.
solution: raise the bar, teachers' and maths/science professionals' salaries and wait for a better sausage at the other end of the process.
there is no f----ing other way round it!
bye, I've got to go to do my maths for tomorrow.

Anonymous said...

Intel chairman calls for immigration reform
By Chris Nuttall in San Francisco

Craig Barrett, chairman of Intel (NASDAQ:INTC) , the world's largest semiconductor maker, called for comprehensive immigration reform to make the US more competitive, during a live question-and-answer session on FT.com.

Mr Barrett, one of a number of technology leaders including Bill Gates to have criticised restrictions on foreign workers in the US, said the first step in simplifying the immigration process would be "to replace the current arbitrary quota system with an open market type approach".

The US's H1-B visa allows foreign engineers and scientists to work on a temporary basis in the US but is capped at 65,000 a year. Mr Barrett said this was inadequate: the current quota had been exhausted and there could be no new admissions until another came into effect in October this year.

"These arbitrary caps undercut business's ability to hire and retain the number of highly educated people in the fields where we need to maintain our leading position," he said.

"Instead of arbitrary caps, a market-based approach that responds to demand is needed."

Mr Barrett was asked by an Intel employee why his company had stopped sponsoring its workers for green cards between 2001 and 2004. The Intel chairman said this was during the longest and deepest recession in the semiconductor industry. It had been waiting for business conditions to improve before resuming the process.

"We should just staple a green card to every advanced degree granted to a foreign national from a US university in science and engineering," he said in another answer.

Mr Barrett also advocated improvements in the US education system to make America more competitive in technology fields.

"Today, we compare ourselves to our neighbours – California to Arizona, Texas to Florida, etc. We do not compare ourselves to the rest of the world and recognise that the bar of achievement, the level necessary for competitiveness is continually being raised."

Craig Barrett: America should open its doors wide to foreign talent

fCh said...

This is worth reading:

Debunking the Myth of a Desperate Software Labor Shortage

Testimony to the U.S. House Judiciary Committee
Subcommittee on Immigration

Dr. Norman Matloff

Department of Computer Science
University of California at Davis
Davis, CA 95616
(530) 752-1953
©1998, 1999, 2000, 2001, 2002
Presented April 21, 1998; updated December 9, 2002

Available at:


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