In a knowledge-based economy, information is key. Technology can act as a catalyst to education. E-learning/distance learning can bring education, information, and technical skills to the most remote parts of a country or indeed the world. In order to adequately capture the benefits of information technology, we must improve educational standards. This usually includes basic education reforms, improving math and science skills, and encouraging schools and libraries to go online.
Jobs will go where the best trained workforce is. Poor educational skills and illiteracy cost business daily through miscalculations, misspellings, or poor comprehension. Industry needs highly educated individuals to drive the growth and productivity. Technology can help lower costs of providing education or provide more effective education through use of technology. Companies like Cisco increasingly are turning to computer and interactive classes to train their own employees.
In the United States, in 2001 the "No Child Left Behind Act" was enacted to help reenergize the US educational system. The law is intended to promote the next stage of raising standards in American education by helping teachers, schools and school districts use challenging standards to guide classroom instruction and student assessment.
Technology companies are encouraging the US Congress to ensure adequate funding continues to be available for programs like these. Creative programs such as the Schools and Libraries (E-Rate) program was authorized by the Telecommunications Act of 1996 to provide discounts for connecting schools and libraries to the Internet. Similar initiatives have come from the states. For example, in California, in his first year, Governor Gray Davis called a special session of the legislature which passed four bills now known as READ (Raising Expectations, Achievements and Development).
Globally, education is recognized as a key factor in building, maintaining, and leveraging electronic commerce. And, technology is often identified as a means to improve education. The World Economic Forum's (WEF) 2001-2002 "Global Information Technology Report: Readiness for the Networked World" specifically examines the category of "networked learning" to help grade a country's e-commerce preparedness. Among the categories examined are corporate investment in employees IT skills (top three countries are the US, Finland, and Germany), quality of IT training and educational programs (Finland, Netherlands, and Sweden), Internet access in schools (Finland, Canada, and Singapore). Other countries are moving to address the issue of education. For example, Mexico has developed a series of targeted educational initiatives. Mexico's most recent initiative "e-Educacion", will focus on using information technology to educate millions of Mexicans who never had the opportunity to finish primary or secondary school. Similarly, Thailand's "National IT-2000 Plan" envisages improving education in Thailand through the use of technology. Likewise, France identified education as one of six key areas of targeted information communications and technology development under the PAGSI (prepare the entry of France into the Information Society) plan.
As stated by John Chambers, CEO and President of Cisco, "Education is the great equalizer in life. In order to properly prepare our children for the jobs of the 21st Century, we need fundamental changes in our education system. Government leaders, teachers, parents, and businesses need to embrace the values of accountability and competition in our schools if we are ever going to improve the current situation." Cisco supports a strong educational agenda and aggressive use of e-learning tools. (Also, see information on Cisco's Networking Academy Program, the world's largest e-learning tool in practice.)
Today's low educational standards and poor performance in the United States relative to other industrialized nations are alarming wake-up calls that the K-12 education system is broken and must be fixed. Fundamental educational reform is essential to preserve the health of the US economy.
A quality public education system is the cornerstone of a sound society and a dynamic economy.
The strength of an economy depends on an educated workforce -workers with basic skills who can think critically and find creative approaches to solving problems. Those skills are important to sustaining our nation's continued growth.
Cisco supports TechNet's education reform principles including:
High standards and meaningful accountability;
Increased competition among public schools, through support for charter schools and other innovative approaches;
A strengthened emphasis on excellence in math and science education;
Expanded access to technology and effective integration of technology in schools;
Outcomes-focused research and development;
Improved teacher training, recruitment, and retention; and,
An increased yield of technically trained college and university graduates.
Cisco believes educational skills worldwide can be fundamentally improved through use of technology. In fact, Cisco itself increasingly trains employees in a virtual, rather than physical classroom setting.
More information on Cisco and Education
Cisco and E-Learning - Cisco Global Learning Network
Cisco E-learning Innovation and Technology News
The "No Child Left Behind" US Department of Education Page
WEF's Global Competitiveness Report
For information on e-learning, visit Skillsoft