The bigger picture: Is the issue the quality of STEM education, or the lack of access to it?

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Rose Kirk, Chief Corporate Social Responsibility Officer

Earlier this week, I received an email from a colleague with a subject line that startled me, but piqued my curiosity, “Survey: Americans unimpressed with STEM education in public schools.”
It was the headline of a Politico article unveiling a survey conducted by Pew Research Center. I clicked on the link, and the first sentence alone triggered both disappointment and an urgent desire to do more. It stated that nearly three-quarters of Americans rate STEM education in America as either “average” or “below average.”
In a technologically driven society, it’s alarming that so many people believe that STEM education in America is subpar. But in looking at the bigger picture, is the issue the quality of STEM education, or the lack of access to it? 
Today, there are students in America who lack access to computers, the Internet and the basic tech-ed tools to help them develop the skills they will need to thrive in a digitally focused society. We must ask ourselves, “What will become of their lives in 20 years?” “Will they be able to secure a well-paying job or become entrepreneurs and innovators?” “Will they be able to make a positive impact on society?”  If we as a nation do not intervene now, then the short answer is “Not likely.” The fundamental issue is that there is a crisis stemming from the digital divide in our country that we can no longer ignore if we are going to remain globally competitive.
To close this gap and provide equal access to quality education, we each must do our part. Our Verizon Innovative Learning programs go deep into communities to give access to free technology and hands-on curriculum to students in need. It is critical that they possess the skills necessary to compete in a digital economy, and we are purposeful in leveraging our technologies and resources to level the playing field.
But no one organization or individual alone can close the digital divide. We must all join together to ensure that all kids, in every community across the US, have access to quality STEM education in school. It’s essential for their futures, it’s essential to business and it’s essential for our world.

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