Thursday, March 31, 2011

We're behind in science, math, and tech. The answer? Immigration!

The other day I was listening to an NPR interview, and for the life of my I can't remember who it was with. In any case, they asked the guy (who was some big tech company guy) what he thought needed to be done in order to resolve the fact that the US continues to go down in international standings in our math and science scores (which indicates that we will probably not lead the world for long in terms of tech innovation).

Albert EinsteinThe guy's answer was fascinating, because the usual response is to examine how we educate and test kids. Instead, this guy noted that we still have the very best tech and business programs and schools (on the college and graduate level) in the world. He also identified that over 50% of the students in these programs are internationals, another fact that people generally note with a tone that says, "We're screwed." Instead, this man said that the majority of these students finish their programs and go home, but that most would LOVE to stay in the US, they simply can't because of visa issues. So, the quick solution to upping our innovation and competitiveness in this area is to ease the visa process and offer our top international students the opportunity to stay, become Americans, and help innovate and lead or tech and business sectors?

This, Isaac pointed out, is what we did during WWII when we opened the door for a huge amount of intellectuals and experts that were leaving Europe en mass as Hitler ramped up pressure against the Jews. Lets do it again!

In any case, I found a Foreign Policy article that ran in a similar vein called, "Think Again: Education"

The international distribution of mobile students is clearly changing, reflecting an ever more competitive global higher-education market. But there are many more foreign students in the United States than there were a decade ago -- 149,000 more in 2008 than in 2000, a 31 percent increase..... For international graduate study, American universities are a particularly powerful draw in fields that may directly affect the future competitiveness of a country's economy: science, technology, engineering, and mathematics. In disciplines such as computer science and engineering, more than six in 10 doctoral students in American programs come from foreign countries.

But that doesn't mean there's nothing to worry about. Although applications from international students to American graduate schools have recovered from their steep post-9/11 decline, the number of foreigners earning science and engineering doctorates at U.S. universities recently dropped for the first time in five years. American schools face mounting competition from universities in other countries, and the United States' less-than-welcoming visa policies may give students from overseas more incentive to go elsewhere. That's a loss for the United States, given the benefits to both its universities and its economy of attracting the best and brightest from around the world.


Jaimie said...

This is a great idea. Internationals are generally some of the best KIND of people too -- they'd make great citizens.

Bob said...

I totally agree with this sentiment. We should be strongly encouraging international students who want to get an education to come here--especially in areas related to technology, science, and math, but in all other areas as well.

My position goes even further, though; I think that the U.S. should be much more open to immigration of all kinds. Immigration is what has built this country into a competitive nation, and I believe it's what will continue to make us competitive as a nation/economy.