Dissertation/Thesis Abstract

Learning from our global competitors: A comparative analysis of science, technology, engineering and mathematics (STEM) education pipelines in the United States, Mainland China and Taiwan
by Chow, Christina M., Ed.D., University of Southern California, 2011, 168; 3477870
Abstract (Summary)

Maintaining a competitive edge within the 21st century is dependent on the cultivation of human capital, producing qualified and innovative employees capable of competing within the new global marketplace. Technological advancements in communications technology as well as large scale, infrastructure development has led to a leveled playing field where students in the U.S. will ultimately be competing for jobs with not only local, but also international, peers. Thus, the ability to understand and learn from our global competitors, starting with the examination of innovative education systems and best practice strategies, is tantamount to the economic development, and ultimate survival, of the U.S. as a whole.

The purpose of this study was to investigate the current state of science, technology, engineering and mathematics (STEM) education and workforce pipelines in the U.S., China, and Taiwan. Two broad research questions examined STEM workforce production in terms of a) structural differences in primary and secondary school systems, including analysis of minimum high school graduation requirements and assessments as well as b) organizational differences in tertiary education and trends in STEM undergraduate and graduate degrees awarded in each region of interest.

While each of the systems studied had their relative strengths and weaknesses, each of the Asian economies studied had valuable insights that can be categorized broadly in terms of STEM capacity, STEM interest and a greater understanding of global prospects that led to heightened STEM awareness.

In China and Taiwan, STEM capacity was built via both traditional and vocational school systems. Focused and structured curriculum during the primary and early secondary school years built solid mathematics and science skills that translated into higher performance on international assessments and competitions. Differentiated secondary school options, including vocational high school and technical colleges and programs beginning shortly after junior high produced a greater number of alternatives for producing STEM capable students.

A heightened interest in the STEM fields was built upon standardized academic core curriculum that ultimately yielded a greater percentage of qualified and interested Asian students pursuing bachelor's and advanced STEM degrees both in their native country and abroad. Rewards and incentives built into school systems, expansion of tertiary degree-granting programs, as well as the development of multiple university entrance pathways has served to heighten interest and perception of STEM careers as well as recruit top students into STEM fields. Further, foreign language classes, starting from either the first or third year of primary school, coupled with information technology and other experimental science and research themed classes, resulted in students who were more aware of global market demands.

Analysis of longitudinal data shows that over a nine-year period, this combination of increased STEM capacity, interest and awareness resulted in a far greater percentage of 9th graders who eventually became STEM certificate, bachelor's, and advanced degree holders capable of competing in the global marketplace.

Indexing (document details)
Advisor: Crew, Rudolph F.
Commitee: Castruita, Rudy, Garcia, Pedro
School: University of Southern California
Department: Education(Leadership)
School Location: United States -- California
Source: DAI-A 73/01, Dissertation Abstracts International
Subjects: Mathematics education, Science education, Curriculum development
Keywords: China, Comparative, Education pipelines, Policy, STEM, Science, technology, engineering, and mathematics, Taiwan
Publication Number: 3477870
ISBN: 978-1-124-94973-4
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