Anya Kamenetz has a terrific article about American education and its effect on competitiveness over at Fast Company. Kamenetz argues (rightfully, I believe) that a focus on simply cranking out more and better STEM graduates (science, technology, engineering, and mathematics) is not the way to compete more effectively with China and India. She offers the perspective of one leading executive in the Indian outsourcing industry - Phaneesh Murthy, CEO of iGate Patni. Here is an excerpt from Kamenetz's article:
If we could just tighten standards and lean harder on the STEM disciplines--science, technology, engineering, mathematics--we'd better our rigorous rivals in India and China, and get our economy firing on all cylinders. As with much conventional wisdom, this is conventional in the worst sense of that word. If you want the truth, talk to the competition. Phaneesh Murthy is CEO of iGate Patni, a top-10 Indian outsourcing company. Murthy oversees 26,000 employees--not the ones snapping SIM chips into cell phones or nagging you about your unpaid AmEx bill, but the ones writing iPhone apps, processing mortgage applications, and redesigning supply chains--in jobs that would be handled in the U.S. by highly paid, college-educated workers. In other words, you. Yet Murthy, a regular bogeyman of outsourcing, believes American education is by far the best in the world. "The U.S. education system is much more geared to innovation and practical application," says Murthy. "It's really good from high school onward." To compete long term, we need more brainstorming, not memorization; more individuality, not standardization.