Georgia students must be better prepared for global competition

Twenty years ago, a diverse group of individuals from the business, government, civic and education communities came together to found the Partnership. They were united in their commitment to improve public education in Georgia. The goal of our organization was to have all parties at the table to forge a dynamic partnership that focused on how our young children will be productive citizens once they leave the education system.

Twenty years later, our vision and goals have not changed. Education is still the number one issue facing our state and our country. The Partnership is still engaging stakeholders from across all areas of government, business, education and our communities so that collectively we can make a difference and strengthen the education pipeline.

I truly believe we have made progress. Georgia has made consistent gains on the National Assessment of Educational Progress (NAEP), the nation’s report card of student achievement.

Paul Bowers

By 2011, 4th graders in Georgia were matching the national average of students reading at or above the basic level. Over the past 11 years, Georgia has cut in half the number of fourth graders who failed to meet the basic levels of math proficiency. In its Quality Counts report released this January, Education Week ranks Georgia 7th in the nation based on the state’s commitment to improve educational policies and practices.

While we celebrate these successes, there is more work to be done, both in Georgia and across our nation. The Center for American Progress and the Center for the Next Generation recently released a report called “The Competition That Really Matters: Comparing U.S, Chinese and Indian Investments in the Next Generation Workforce.”

The report proposes that in order to continue to be competitive on a national level, the U.S. must embark on an educational strategy that will ensure children entering adulthood are prepared to be competitive in the global marketplace.

The report examines national strategies currently being implemented by China and India. Due to their focus on investments in education and development of human capital, by 2030 China will have 200 million college graduates – more than the entire U.S. workforce. Moreover, “between 2000 and 2008, China graduated 1.14 million people in the STEM (Science, Technology, Engineering and Math) field….the United States graduated 496,000.”

Similarly, over the past seven years, due to investments in human capital, India has tripled the number of students that have graduated with four-year degrees in engineering, computer science, and information technology.

This concerns me. This increasing global competiveness has created urgency within our own educational system here in Georgia. Our students are now facing global competition for jobs.

In addressing this issue, New York Times columnist Charles Blow cites the book, “The Coming Jobs War” by Jim Clifton. Clifton states that of the world’s five billion people over the age of 15, more than three billion said they work or want to work. Currently, there are only 1.2 billion full-time, formal jobs available. That means 40 percent more people want to work than there are current jobs.

We can no longer just talk about our commitment to education. We must take steps now to ensure all our students are ready for this level of job competition. And we must make sure our state is ready for the global marketplace.

Only then will we have a sustained commitment to education that ensures every child is prepared to compete successfully in the global economy.

Commitment is paramount. Not just commitment of resources, but commitment of leadership and support for continuous improvement.

The Partnership is committed to its role in leading a coalition of leaders from throughout the state to ensure the education pipeline in Georgia is strong. We will continue to work to make certain that as students exit the pipeline, they are actively engaged in their own futures, the future of our state, and the future of our nation.

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