China Not So Worried About Math, Computer Skills - InformationWeek

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11/25/2009
05:28 PM
Chris Murphy
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China Not So Worried About Math, Computer Skills

President Obama's making a new push to encourage and improve math and science education, in order to keep up in the global economy. In China, meanwhile, math and computer skills rank low as a requirement for driving innovation, a surprising Newsweek survey finds.

President Obama's making a new push to encourage and improve math and science education, in order to keep up in the global economy. In China, meanwhile, math and computer skills rank low as a requirement for driving innovation, a surprising Newsweek survey finds.Anyone interested in these issues should take a look at the Newsweek survey and accompanying articles. The survey compares attitudes about innovation and education through a survey of people in the China, Germany, India, Japan, the U.K., and U.S.

A few intriguing findings:

Very few Chinese (9%) see math and computer skills as key for their children to drive innovation. The majority (52%) of Americans do.

Instead, many Chinese (45%) see "creative approaches to problem solving" as a key skill to driving innovation, more than any other skill; only 18% of Americans cite it.

The overwhelming majority of Chinese (81%) think America's staying ahead of China in innovation; only 41% of Americans think America is staying ahead of China.

82% of Chinese think the U.S. is a technologically innovative country; 73% of Ameicans do.

With regard to education, I'm by no means arguing against math, science, or other technology education by pointing to this data. I've long advocated for STEM education. But I'm surprised to see such a low emphasis on creative problem solving by U.S. respondents, and such overwhelming faith in math and computer education. Perhaps it's a response to relative strengths: that Americans value creative problem solving but think we already do it well, while we consider our math/computer skills comparatively weak. That's my hopeful reading of the data. Because our measure of success in pushing STEM education won't be just pumping out more graduates. It'll be how we equip those grads to apply that technical knowledge in ever-more creative ways.

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