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EDUCATION FOR TECHNOLOGICAL COMPETITIVENESS IN A WORLD SOCIETY 21 3 Education for Technological Competitiveness in a World Society The need for achieving a more internationally responsive outlook must be understood and acted upon throughout the system for engineering education in the United States. Changes in attitude and approach will be required at all stages, including high school, college, graduate school, and continuing education programs to achieve a set of offerings and opportunities that will enable U.S. engineers to function competitively throughout their careers. Several programs already provide examples of successful approaches to the education of globally oriented engineers. LANGUAGES AND CULTURE Along with the essential foundation of science and mathematics training in secondary schools, the usefulness of early study of languages and experience that reinforces language skills needs to be better appreciated by young people who wish to pursue careers in engineering and technology. The committee recommends maintaining traditional U.S. attention to European languages, but stresses the urgency of increased education in Asian languages, especially Japanese, for engineers at all levels. These languages usually require more years of study for Americans to attain competence than do European languages, so the need to start early is especially evident. For example, the age at which a commitment is required for an American to attain fluency in Japanese is usually considered to be under 20 years. In general, language training is most effective early in an education; in other countries English is usually acquired as part of grade-school education. In fact, the United States needs to achieve a good balance of skills among its engineers and technologists in a range of languages, not only Japanese but also Chinese, Russian, languages of the newly industrializing countries such as Korea and Brazil, and the languages Americans have traditionally studied,
EDUCATION FOR TECHNOLOGICAL COMPETITIVENESS IN A WORLD SOCIETY 22 such as Spanish, French, and German. Career counselors in high schools and engineering colleges should emphasize the value of foreign-language skills when students consider elective courses. Graduate degree programs should emphasize spoken and technical reading competency in at least one foreign language. Study of a language should be joined with learning about the culture with which it is associated. Indeed, for engineers who may not have the time to acquire foreign language skills, learning about foreign cultures may still be of great value for the practice of their profession. In some cases, curriculum materials designed to help engineers learn particular languages need to be developed, but the College of Engineering and the Department of East Asian Language and Literature at the University of Wisconsin, Cornell University, and MIT have developed innovative programs in Japanese language education for technologists. More schools should consider such programs, with the national objective of achieving good coverage of key languages, perhaps through specialization on different campuses. The NSF could play a constructive role in convening academic representatives concerned with the teaching of foreign language and cultural courses for engineers and scientists to plan development of a stronger and better balanced national effort. One of the United States' valuable resources is the heterogeneity of its population. Great numbers of U.S. citizens, including students, speak the language and are familiar with the culture of the land of their family origins. Many immigrants and their children have chosen engineering and technology as their route to a better life in America. We should continue to prize these people for their contributions and encourage natural bridges they could construct to their original homeland, be it China, India, France, Venezuela, Korea, or wherever. Few other countries have inherent in their population this best of all possible means to establish and sustain effective international exchanges. In addition, many foreign students are present on U.S. campuses (Figure 1 and Table 2), including about half of all doctoral students in engineering, and large numbers of practicing engineers in the United States originally were foreign nationals. These groups offer outstanding opportunities for their fellow U.S. students and colleagues to learn both about foreign cultures and about engineering needs and practice around the world. U.S. organizations and individual engineers should draw on this dynamic resource to learn about progress and aspirations abroad as they study and work among us. Those students who are satisfied alumni of U.S. institutions and who return to other countries to pursue their careers are likewise an important source of lasting positive relationships for the United States. ON-CAMPUS OPPORTUNITIES Many U.S. colleges and graduate schools offer outstanding training in engineering and technology. Indeed, the eagerness of students from abroad
EDUCATION FOR TECHNOLOGICAL COMPETITIVENESS IN A WORLD SOCIETY 23 to attend U.S. schools is evidence of the quality of the experience available on our campuses. FIGURE 1 Foreign students in the United States by field of study, 1985/1986. SOURCE: Institute for International Education, Open Doors, 1985/1986. Yet, many of even our best schools could further strengthen the international outlook of their engineering students and faculty. And for the institutions that are less engaged in research, yet produce a large percentage of our practicing engineers, major opportunities exist for improvement. The current four-year undergraduate curriculum in engineering is already crowded. The principal means for enhancing undergraduate international exposure is not, therefore, through introducing more requirements. A more practical solution is to change the mind-set of administrations, faculty, and students toward a more international view. Two approaches to this end are 1. Educational institutions concerned with engineering and technology at all levels should establish means of assessing their international capabilities, involvements, and needs for improvement. Simply setting up a periodic effort to measure movement toward a global perspective should in itself prove stimulating. âIndicatorsâ that might be considered include the following: â¢ number of engineering students studying foreign languages and cultures;
EDUCATION FOR TECHNOLOGICAL COMPETITIVENESS IN A WORLD SOCIETY 24 â¢ number of engineering students and faculty members involved in international programs of research, exchange, and travel; â¢ number of guest faculty members and lecturers from abroad; â¢ number of efforts to draw upon the knowledge of foreign-born faculty members and students about engineering education and practices abroad; â¢ number of joint publications of faculty members with foreign authors; â¢ ease of access to foreign technical information; â¢ frequency of use of international engineering and science networks such as BITNET; â¢ activities of international centers concerned with engineering and technology on campus; and â¢ interaction of engineering groups with regional area studies programs on campus.
EDUCATION FOR TECHNOLOGICAL COMPETITIVENESS IN A WORLD SOCIETY 25 2. Groups performing academic program evaluations (such as departmental visiting committees, NSF review bodies, and evaluators of the Accreditation Board on Engineering and Technology) should examine the extent to which both the formal curriculum and extracurricular activities convey to students a sensitivity to the international nature of engineering and technology. Industrial recruiters are another group that could exercise constructive leverage on the international content of engineering education. If recruiters were to ask candidates for employment about their familiarity with engineering progress abroad with expectations of a positive response, subsequent student interest most likely would be swift and beneficial. One mechanism that might be useful in this context is the establishment of programs granting certificates for students who have developed a capability in a foreign language and culture. Opportunities should be expanded at several levels, including the following: Junior year or summer abroad. Though participation in undergraduate programs abroad is widespread in social sciences and the humanities, it is less common for students in engineering and science. Of the 30,000 U.S. college students who study abroad each year, only about 3 percent are in engineering, including computer science. The committee recommends that a larger proportion of undergraduate engineering and science students take part in study programs abroad, primarily through specific, long-term pairing of U.S. schools with comparable institutions abroad, so that the students do not delay completion of their baccalaureate degree. Graduate degree abroad. The committee urges consideration of the establishment of a highly prestigious, full scholarship program for a small number of top undergraduate students to acquire a graduate degree in engineering abroad. It might be best to orient such a program primarily toward foreign equivalents of a master's degree, recognizing that many countries have systems of degrees that do not match exactly the U.S. system. Such a program might be established on a long-term basis at a small number of elite technology institutions in countries such as the United Kingdom, the Federal Republic of Germany, France, Sweden, the Netherlands, and Switzerland. In some of these countries, graduate instruction is given in English, and language would not be a significant barrier. Postdoctoral year abroad. Most current recipients of doctoral degrees in engineering do not consider a postdoctoral appointment as particularly valuable. The National Research Council, for instance, has difficulty in finding engineering candidates for the postdoctoral programs it administers, in contrast to the sciences, where relatively many candidates are available. The availability and career attractiveness of industrial positions are the main reasons for the lack of interest in postdoctoral appointments in engineering. However, through appropriate salary safeguards and incentives, it should be possible to persuade U.S. candidates to take a position of one or more
EDUCATION FOR TECHNOLOGICAL COMPETITIVENESS IN A WORLD SOCIETY 26 years in industrial laboratories in Japan or other countries where opportunities to gain unique experience are available. Candidates should have just completed a Ph.D. in engineering and have technical interests that match those of a receiving organization, which might be a private firm, government organization, university, or interuniversity center. Informal discussions with directors of foreign industrial and governmental laboratories indicate that many such laboratories would welcome and provide support for such a program. It should be possible to ease reentry to the United States for individuals who stay abroad more than one year through a system of starting bonuses and guaranteed jobs. It is the committee's view that an overseas postdoctoral experience would have tremendous long-term value to new U.S. engineering Ph.D's, and so to U.S. companies and universities in the long run. The committee recommends that NSF take the lead in a consortium including other federal agencies, companies, and private foundations to fund a program at an annual level sufficient to support 100 to 200 U.S. citizens receiving doctorates in engineering to spend a year or more abroad. Such a program would cost more than $7 million per year, based on an estimate of $70,000 per postdoctoral year. However, the foreign host institution might be expected to provide living facilities, the cost of any living adjustment, or a portion of the stipend, so that the cost to U.S. government agencies could be moderated. One option would be to build on the Industrialized Country Exchange Program of NSF. Another precedent to build on is the successful NATO-funded fellowship program, which was established primarily to enrich the educational opportunities of our North Atlantic allies, but could become a program with more symmetrical educational benefits. This program annually supports study for about 50 U.S. postdoctorals, mainly scientists, in other NATO countries. About 50 percent of the applications by Americans for this popular fellowship request host institutions in English-speaking countries, the principal reason being the lack of competency in foreign languages. This situation underscores the need to include language training as part of the fellowship arrangement. Other models for exchange arrangements are the programs that the Alexander von Humboldt Foundation of the Federal Republic of Germany operates (mostly in natural sciences) for sponsoring German researchers to work abroad and vice versa. Faculty Sabbaticals. In the past, faculty members often took their sabbaticals abroad. This practice seems to be on the decline nowadays, however, often because a spouse's professional career limits mobility. The committee urges a return to this tradition. The NSF might play an expanded role in providing supplemental funding to increase the feasibility of foreign sabbaticals for facultyâa role that government science and technology agencies and universities play in many other countries. Participants have also praised the recently discontinued NATO âdouble jumpâ program, in which academics worked in industry, and engineers from industry worked in academia, in another country. The NSF and other agencies might work with industry to identify more opportunities of this sort, and to help fund and administer a
EDUCATION FOR TECHNOLOGICAL COMPETITIVENESS IN A WORLD SOCIETY 27 larger program of this type. Another option for NSF would be to supplement awards to Presidential Young Investigators and other multiyear grantees in engineering to spend a portion of their time at a center of excellence abroad. THE NEED FOR A CAMPUS FOCUS The various opportunities described above would be significantly enhanced if on every major engineering school campus in this country there were an office with responsibility for establishing an international perspective in engineering and technology, and for providing information on international programs and developments. The committee recommends that major U.S. engineering schools that do not already have an international engineering information center consider establishing one and, if one already exists, publicizing the importance of its function. The principal purposes of such a center should be to ensure that undergraduates and graduate students are exposed to international issues in engineering and technology, and to collect and distribute information about opportunities for study and work abroad. Such a center could be effectively located in the office of the dean of engineering or, alternatively, established in association with an existing entity such as an Engineering Research Center, a Materials Research Laboratory, or a university-wide international programs office. Funds for such a campus focus might be provided either by an external source, such as NSF, or by the university itself. The committee also encourages the development on campus of new cooperative efforts between engineering schools and other academic units. For example, it is desirable for engineering schools to establish closer ties with institutes concerned with studies of geographic regions, such as the Pacific Rim countries. Students might also be attracted to new two-year or three-year graduate programs in international engineering management. Such programs involve joint degrees, for example, master of engineering with a master of business administration or international affairs. Alternatively, they might involve a cooperative arrangement with a school in another country. One might consider, for example, pairing top U.S. programs with programs at comparable and complementary institutions in the United Kingdom, Federal Republic of Germany, France, Switzerland, or other countries. In such programs, students might spend one semester and one summer studying and working abroad while pursuing most of the coursework at a U.S. institution, a pattern that would minimize institutional concerns regarding the awarding of a degree. Innovative international programs for engineering education are under way at the Georgia Institute of Technology, North Carolina State University, and several other schools. Stanford University is cooperating with Kyoto University in establishing two new programs in Japan for students from the United States. The Stanford Center for Technology and Innovation at Kyoto will make it possible for 30 Stanford engineering and science students to spend six months in Japan, half in classes at Kyoto and half interning
EDUCATION FOR TECHNOLOGICAL COMPETITIVENESS IN A WORLD SOCIETY 28 in Japanese industry. The Kyoto Program in Japanese Studies will provide opportunities for U.S. students with strong backgrounds in Japanese language and culture to spend two quarters at Kyoto furthering those interests. Stanford will administer the program for a consortium that so far includes Brown, Harvard, Princeton, and Yale universities. U.S. engineering educators should also be more aggressive in learning from education programs developed in other countries. By way of example, technical universities in the Netherlands are developing an impressive series of one-year graduate programs focussed on specific technologies selected with the cooperation of industry and the engineering professional societies. CAREER-LONG EDUCATION AND TRAINING Education continues throughout any successful engineering career by many mechanisms, including courses and programs offered by corporations, professional societies, universities, and commercial vendors. In most cases, however, there is room in these activities for stronger emphasis on international factors. One example might be increased use of Engineering Foundation and Gordon-type conferences to provide exposure to international developments. Such concentrated experiences, in which participants interact intensively for a week in a relatively isolated location, are excellent opportunities for learning and building contacts. Although these conferences should remain largely self-supporting, as they are at present, it is recommended that NSF play a more catalytic role in the further âinternationalizationâ of educational opportunities for engineering professionals by providing funding for foreign or U.S. speakers to prepare and present reviews of international developments. In conclusion, the committee stresses the value of cooperation among institutions and sectors in engineering education. NSF should look for allies with resources and shared interests among the federal agencies, in the corporate sector, and among the private foundations, which have traditionally played key roles in bringing about innovation in the U.S. educational system. The process of achieving greater internationalization of U.S. engineering education and training will be multifaceted; funds are a necessary catalyst, but achieving the needed, widespread change in mind-set will be in large part be a result of bringing together new combinations of people, as well as more familiar groups, to face fresh circumstances. The entire U.S. engineering and science community must work together for education for technological competitiveness in a world society.