STEM in America-How do we compare to our biggest rivals?

I attended a presentation this week given by Turney Stevens, the Dean of the Business School at Lipscomb University in Nashville, TN.  Turney is a bright and successful businessman and entrepreneur, but he is also keenly aware of the value of STEM education as well as how our biggest rivals in the world, China and India, are quickly catching up to America and also how their STEM education processes dwarf what we do in this country.

The photo below says a lot of what we all believe-it resides on that fine line between comedy and tragedy.


(Source:  Hampton Roads Partnership-Flickr)



The All India Council for Technical Education (AICTE) has some interesting information about the history of technical education in India.  The excerpt below comes from their website at

Technical education in India contributes a major share to the overall education system and plays a vital role in the social and economic development of our nation. In India, technical education is imparted at various levels such as: craftsmanship, diploma, degree, post-graduate and research in specialized fields, catering to various aspects of technological development and economic progress.
The beginning of formal Technical Education in India can be dated back to the mid 19th Century. The major policy initiatives in the pre-independence period included appointment of the Indian Universities Commission in 1902, issue of the Indian Education policy resolution in 1904 and the Governor General’s policy statement of 1913 stressing the importance of Technical Education, the establishment of IISc in Bangalore, Institute for Sugar, Textile and Leather Technology in Kanpur, N.C.E. in Bengal in 1905 and Industrial schools in several provinces. Significant developments include:

  • Constitution of the Technical Education Committee of the Central Advisory Board of Education (CABE) of 1943;
  • Preparation of the Sergeant Report of 1944; and
  • Formation of the All India Council for Technical Education (AICTE) in 1945 by the Government of India.

All India Council for Technical Education (AICTE) was set-up in November 1945 as a national level Apex Advisory Body to conduct survey on the facilities on technical education and to promote development in the country in a coordinated and integrated manner. And to ensure the same, as stipulated in, the National Policy of Education (1986), AICTE be vested with statutory authority for planning, formulation and maintenance of norms and standards, quality assurance through accreditation, funding in priority areas, monitoring and evaluation, maintaining parity of certification and awards and ensuring coordinated and integrated development and management of technical education in the country.

There can be no doubt about the impact of technical and science related education in India.



China is making a big push to overtake the USA in science supremacy.  An article in the New York Times in 2010 provided opinions from five different experts on this topic.  China is now second to our country in the volume of scientific papers and it has more students than our country, or any country, in technical colleges and universities.

Here are a few excerpts from this article:

Gordon Chang, author of “The coming collapse of China”

China’s one-party state cannot produce world-class historians, economists, political thinkers or even demographers. Beijing’s increasing demand for obedience smothers creativity in many of the social sciences and “soft” disciplines.  But can the country nurture scientists, doctors and innovators of technology? Beijing is making a big effort to do so. Recently, many patriotic Chinese are returning to build their careers in hard sciences. Western analysts reason that the flow of talent must mean that China has turned a corner.


Cong Cao, a researcher at SUNY

China’s ambition to become an innovation-oriented nation by 2020 (as outlined in its Medium and Long-Term Plan for the Development of Science and Technology: 2006−2020), will be significantly impeded if it does not make effort eradicating misconduct in science.Recently, Lancet and Nature, two leading international science journals, published editorials commenting on a case in which scientists at Jinggangshan University in China were caught fabricating some 70 papers submitted to Acta Crystallographica Section E.

The case is just the tip of the iceberg of academic frauds in China. According to the China Association for Science and Technology, the Chinese equivalent to the American Association for the Advancement of Science, more than half of the Chinese scientists who responded to its recent survey indicated that they were aware of incidents of misconduct involving their colleagues.

The rising scientific misconduct in China can be attributed to several factors, including the pursuit of promotion and other material rewards, the lack of autonomy in the research community, and societal influences.

John Kao, chairman and founder of the Institute for Large Scale Innovation

The drama of China’s continuing progress in the sciences will be based on its ability to translate quantity into quality.What does this mean? China is now pursuing what I call a “brute force” strategy in creating many new institutions of higher education that in turn will produce a large number of new scientists and engineers. The underlying assumption seems to be that quantity will lead to quality; in other words, world class achievement will emerge when the “installed base” of talent reaches a critical mass.

In this approach, the Chinese certainly have the law of large numbers on their side; the high end of the Chinese bell curve is a mountain of talented people. Thus, it seems inevitable that brute force quantity will eventually lead to “premium quality” measured in such terms as scientific breakthroughs and Nobel Prizes.

This post just scratches the surface and I will return many times to talk more about both of these powers as well to talk about how our country is reacting to this rising tide of technology in Asian region.