Corporations Seek Greater Role in STEM Education

Faced with a likely shortage of suitable employees in the future, corporations are proactively aiding reform of the education system.

Corporations are stepping in to help solve the current education crisis before they’re left with nobody suitable to hire.

A quarter of our children drop out of high school every year. Two-fifths of those who do graduate leave high school unprepared for college or career, while 57% (PDF) lack comprehension of even remedial math. Apparently the national disinterest in STEM subjects (science, technology, engineering and math) starts early, as over 61% (PDF) of middle schoolers would rather take out the garbage than do their math homework.

Growth in STEM jobs is currently rising three times faster than that of non-STEM jobs and the National Science Foundation estimates that over the next decade 80% of created jobs will require some mastery of STEM subjects.

Facebook founder Mark Zuckerberg has donated $100 million towards various educational causes and Intel has given $1 billion with several other firms also stepping up to the plate. Other companies, like Microsoft are increasingly doing more than just donating money, as welcome as that investment is in an underfunded and underappreciated sector, and are actively participating in social innovation projects.

Microsoft partners with NGOs around the world to help young people have the tools to close what it calls the ‘opportunity divide’. Microsoft’s Partners in Learning has so far sent $500 million to education systems globally helping teachers and students in 114 countries.

“Our goal is to embrace the bigness of the challenge that government and society face in terms of transforming education in a holistic way,” says Vice President of Microsoft Worldwide Education Anthony Salcito. “It’s not just about technology. It’s about bringing innovation to schools. How do you personalize the education experience? How do you incorporate new modes of classroom design and curriculum, or think about assessment differently? How do you change a kid’s vision of his future?”

Microsoft helps education in direct and indirect ways. Their open source software platform allows people to create educational apps and tools for products like Kinect and Windows Phone, and allows talented students to stretch themselves and help their education system by doing so themselves. The Imagine Cup asks students to use technology to solve problems in the world. Partners in Learning challenges people to innovate within the school system itself and provides investment grants to help test and implement winning ideas.

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