Shalom Life | July 01, 2014

Israel Promoting Tech Education in Schools

Intel executives argue that students need to take more math and science classes for the Startup Nation to continue to thrive

By: Shaleni McBain

Published: June 27th, 2014 in Business » Israel

Israel Promoting Tech Education in Schools

Less than 10 per cent of Israeli high school students take advance courses in the maths and sciences, reports the Times of Israel, which means bad news bears for Intel.

“Especially in a country like Israel, where Intel is such a large part of the economy, we need to encourage more kids to study math and science, because if we don’t, Intel, and Israeli society in general, will have a hard time developing the technologies of tomorrow,” said Shelly Esque, Global Director of Intel’s Corporate Affairs Group.

A potential fix is a combined effort by the multinational and Israeli governments to alter the emphasis in schools.

“Unfortunately, STEM education is in a crisis,” said Esque. “Even in India, there are fewer high school graduates entering engineering each year.”

STEM is an acronym for Science, Technology, Engineering, and Mathematics, the focal subjects that tech development is based on.

This week, Intel had its first STEM Conference in Israel to bring attention to the importance of these subjects. The Jerusalem conference showcased speakers and panels discussing educational policy, with an emphasis on encouraging kids to study STEM subjects.

“We have programs encouraging science and technology education in many countries, helping kids in high school and even younger grades to appreciate STEM and choose technology as a career option.” said Esque, implying that Intel knows all about the importance of kids taking the STEM subjects.

Education Minister Shai Piron spoke at the conference as well. “The 21st century sets before us challenges that require deep-rooted changes in the method and objectives of education. Our intention is to institute major innovations in the educational system over the coming years that will encourage the study of tech-related subjects and encourage ‘out of the box’ thinking.”

Esque says Intel has taken measures to meet this goal. The company has a wide range of curricula and educational tools that can be used from the earliest grades of school, until after high school. For those in the higher grades Intel has developed a variety of practical programs from supplying mentors to a community to work directly with kids, hands-on training, internships, competitions and more.

Mooly Eden, Intel International Senior Vice-President and CEO of Intel Israel, says enrollment in the advanced mathematics programs – generally required for top math and science programs in universities – has fallen by almost half since 2008.

“Over the years Intel has invested $10.8 billion in Israel,” said Eden. “Taking into account all of the services and outside contractors we use, Intel’s activities on Israel is responsible, in our estimation, for some 30,000 jobs in the Israeli economy. Last year, Intel Israel was responsible for more than 9% of Israel’s tech exports, which account for half of overall exports, except for diamonds.”

Fixing Israel’s STEM education problem isn’t a task for one company. Intel has connected with 100 partners in the industry, government and social service to implement programs in Israeli schools. Partners include Mellanox, Microsoft, Cisco, Qualcomm, and Broadcom, a US manufacturer of networking equipment with a large presence in Israel. Broadcom awards scholarships to students who excel in STEM subjects.

Esque is often told that public education is no place for a private company to stick their nose. People believe it is the elected officials that should be taking care of these issues. However, Esque does’t see Intel and other large enterprises as replacing government, but instead as helping it.

“We, who are developing the technologies of tomorrow, know what skills are going to be needed and how to train for them — and governments, we have found, are very anxious to develop programs that respond to those needs,” she said.

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