Education is the Foundation of Innovation

Innovation cannot occur without innovators. While that seems obvious, it bears repeating that without a pool of intelligent and creative people to draw from, a culture and an economy cannot grow and progress.

A February 2011 report released by McKinsey & Company -- “Growth and Renewal in the United States: Retooling America’s Economic Engine,” found that over the next decade, the U.S. will face a shortfall of approximately 1.9 million technical and analytical workers.

Ensuring California’s workforce maintains a competitive edge in rapidly changing national and international environments means appropriately coordinating the various state and regional entities responsible for providing the population of California with the skills they need to adapt.

The California Council on Science and Technology (CCST) was tasked with assessing California’s Innovation Ecosystem. Central to the findings in the report was K-12 education’s role as an incubator of future innovators and how the state's public education system is often the first access point for many children in accessing digital technology.   The report called for a  “a paradigm shift in how students access and use information" [i] stating that it is critical that schools and educators see modern technology and information tools as more than a fad, and that “California’s 21st century learning environment be grounded in digital learning.”[ii]

According to the CCST, 21st century teachers need to encourage the use of technology in each course and at each grade level.  In the 2011-11 school year there was one computer for every 6.3 students in elementary schools, one for every 5.2 students in junior and middle schools, and by high school, the average rate was one computer for every 5.7 students.  The number of classrooms with internet access also dropped significantly from grade school (162,151) to high school (83,433).  With limited access, teachers are not able to integrate these basic technologies into the core curriculum. 

In accessing these new platforms for learning, the CCST report recommended taking advantage of California's homegrown technology companies (i.e. HP, Cisco, Apple, Intel).  The report also encouraged private-public partnerships at all levels of schooling as a means of catalyzing investment by the private sector in school systems and increasing job-creation opportunities that could lead to leadership in global markets.[iii]

Science, technology, engineering and mathematics (STEM) fields have become central to U.S. economic competitiveness and according to the U.S. Department of Labor.[iv] And though California consistently ranks highly in terms of high-tech firms and jobs, California public school graduates are often woefully unprepared for these jobs. California ranked 43rd or lower across all states in mathematics and science proficiency in grades 4 and 8 in 2005.[v] Beyond K-12, California ranks 41st in the number of science and engineering bachelor degrees awarded, according to the California Innovation Corporation.[vi]

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