ERIC Identifier: ED293207
Publication Date: 1987-00-00
Author: Haynes, Chloe J.
Source: ERIC Clearinghouse on
Educational Management Eugene OR.
Education and Economic Development. ERIC Digest Series Number
Technological enterprises and the expanding service sector are
transforming America's postindustrial economy to one of information-based
production. Businesses are now calling upon schools to contribute to the
economic development of the information age.
To compete in the global marketplace, high technological businesses
selectively recruit new workers. These assertive enterprises locate in areas
that offer progressive schools and a trained work force. All types of businesses
invest $2 billion yearly to retrain workers who lack computational and other
basic skills. Government and business leaders forecast that without immediate
intervention strategies, the cost of increased numbers of students dropping out
will cripple the economy.
How are schools responding to these complex changes? Many are seeking to
upgrade student skills at the same time as they are entering into partnerships
with businesses to assist in the education of youth.
HOW ARE ECONOMIC CHANGES CHALLENGING EDUCATION?
Rapid technological advancements have contributed to a debate over improving
students' skill levels as opposed to helping them develop more specialized
skills. Noting the trend toward a labor pool that is increasingly drawn from a
youthful underclass, some analysts emphasize remedial and basic skills
development among students of all socioeconomic backgrounds. The scarcity of
well-qualified workers recently prompted the Committee for Economic Development
to urge that government and business invest in training the educationally
disadvantaged (Olson 1987).
The numerous businesses that provide employees with what amounts to a free
education stress both skill level and skill type. Corporations know that workers
who read and write well learn diverse tasks more easily. The chairman of Alcoa,
Charles Parry (Penning 1987), recommends that "the new jobs require people who
are creative, flexible, and adaptive." Future workers, therefore, should master
such "basics" as problem-solving, synthesis, analytical skills, and multiple
John Naisbett (Allen 1987), author of MEGATRENDS, believes that, although the
information workplace demands "a much higher level of creativity and thinking,"
for student preparation "it's not high-tech that's required." Instead, "we have
to re-invent education" by "learning how to think...to be creative."
Many schools and communities appear to have resolved the dilemma over skill
level versus skill type by favoring a broad-based, multidisciplinary curriculum
that is balanced with evaluative and organizational skills as well as basic and
technological training. A broad education equips students with the flexibility
to learn a range of skills.
HOW DO SCHOOLS CONTRIBUTE TO ECONOMIC DEVELOPMENT?
Education contributes to an economy's development in two ways: (1) through
the economy's organization--its division of tasks, and (2) through the economy's
performance--how much it produces.
The economy's organization is becoming increasingly specialized in its
division of tasks--tasks which schools train students to perform. The economy's
performance is determined by the productivity of the labor force. Because the
educational level of the labor force is a determinant of its productivity,
schools make an important contribution to economic development.
Peter G. Peterson (1987), a trustee of the Committee for Economic
Development, says, "It is hard to imagine any long-term economic
renaissance--especially one built on 'working smarter'--without a determined
investment in the most precious of our assets: the skills, intellect, work
habits, health, and character of our children."
WHAT ARE STATES DOING TO PROMOTE ECONOMIC DEVELOPMENT THROUGH EDUCATIONAL
Public concern about educational quality has brought attention in many state
capitals to the relationship between school programs and employment preparation.
States are responding to this concern in a variety of ways. For example,
Illinois funded a $100 million reform that included alternative programs for
potential dropouts. Legislators in Minnesota invested in the future of excellent
students with increased funding for the gifted. Tennessee's educational reforms
contributed to General Motors' decision to build an automobile plant in
State task forces are promoting economic development through educational
improvements in curriculum offerings, computer skill development, and teacher
HOW ARE SCHOOL-BUSINESS PARTNERSHIPS PREPARING STUDENTS FOR TODAY'S LABOR
Community participation programs that encourage business involvement in
education include matching fund programs, parent workshops, and student training
for various business needs. Businesses want to help schools in practical ways
through school-business partnerships and "adopt-a-school" projects.
In Dallas, Texas, more than 1,000 businesses have adopted 200 schools. School
administrators and the Chamber of Commerce have encouraged local company
officers to address their responsibilities to education, creating a ripple
effect throughout the community.
The program offered by the Boston Compact consortium of companies ensures
jobs for participating high school students upon graduation. In turn, schools
guarantee that graduates will perform at a specific skill level and that skill
levels will increase 5 percent each year.
WHAT CAN ADMINISTRATORS DO TO HELP SCHOOLS PREPARE STUDENTS FOR THE WORK
Administrators must have an empathetic understanding of the differing
perspectives among students, staff, and community members, and be able to guide
their schools toward effective student preparation for the work force.
In addition to their own leadership capabilities, administrators must also
consider the potential of their students as economic leaders. Often, schools
focus on classroom issues and forget how a strong, clear school mission gives
students a sense of identity and pride.
In recent years, educational leaders have joined forces with businesses and
community members to prepare students for a new, challenging labor market and,
in so doing, are making major contributions to economic development. As the
transition to the information age continues, the adaptable, creative student may
provide the force to direct economic development.
FOR MORE INFORMATION
Allen, Ron. "An Interview with John Naisbett." SCHOOL BUSINESS AFFAIRS 53
(1987): 44-48, 50.
Crawford-Clark, Brenda. "When Schools and Businesses Pair Off, Both Can Live
Happily Ever After." THE AMERICAN SCHOOL BOARD JOURNAL 172 (1985): 36-37, 40.
Eitzen, D. Stanley. SOCIAL PROBLEMS. 3rd ed. Boston: Allyn and Bacon, Inc.,
Montague, William. "School Rated a Key Factor in Business-Site Decisions."
EDUCATION WEEK 7 (1987): 1, 14.
Olson, Lynn. "Reforms 'Doomed,' Says Panel, Without Early Family Aid."
EDUCATION WEEK 7 (1987): 1, 42.
Penning, Nick. "Education Can Prevent Crippled Economy in 21st Century." THE
SCHOOL ADMINISTRATOR 44 (1987): 26, 28.
Peterson, Peter G. "The Morning After." THE ATLANTIC 200 (1987): 43-55,
Robinson, Glen E., and Nancy J. Protheroe. COST OF EDUCATION: AN INVESTMENT
IN AMERICA'S FUTURE. ERS REPORT. Chapters 2 and 7. Educational Research Service,
Arlington, VA, 1987. ED 284 370.