The White House and Department of Education are positioning early STEM education as a key to the administration's goal of elevating the nation's competitive position, both by measure of student achievement and, in the longer view, by the economic and social benefits that follow from a workforce with a solid foundation in the subjects that are increasingly critical to the 21st century economy.
"Early learning has a huge return on investment for the country," Education Secretary John King said Thursday at the White House STEM symposium. "When some think of it as an expense, we would argue it's not an expense — it's an investment, a long-term investment that realizes savings in better long-term academic outcomes, better long-term health outcomes, better long-term success in the workforce."
The Obama administration has made the STEM fields a hallmark of its education policy. In 2011, the president laid out the goal of bringing an additional 100,000 high-quality teachers into those fields in a decade, part of a broader initiative that is largely supported by companies in the tech sector that say they struggle with recruiting and hiring skilled workers.
Roberto Rodríguez, deputy assistant to the president for education, observed that the STEM fields, with exploration and experimentation at their core, are a natural fit for young children.
"It really shouldn't be hard to foster that love for STEM learning early. As any parent or teacher will know, children are born curious -- they're born natural scientists and explorers," Rodriguez said.
A full list of the STEM commitments the White House has secured can be found here.
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