Engineering and science degrees in the U.S. and Asia

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[UPDATE: Part of this post (the first paragraph) was missing before and has been added; we just switched to a new version of Movable Type and I had some trouble getting it to take my post the first time and lost a paragraph somehow.]

Instapundit has an interview which has some interesting plots at the end, showing the number of engineering bachelor's degrees granted in the U.S. versus China and other Asian countries. Check it out. China passed us sometime in the mid-1980's and the growth rate in number of degrees granted is much higher. The trend is similar for graduate school, and also for the natural sciences generally, not just engineering.

I do know, however, that the relatively low number of doctoral degrees in science affects our own university system significantly. As a graduate student at a major U.S. research university, I used to joke that our department had a rule that postdoctoral researchers must be foreign, as none of the postdocs I knew during my time there were U.S. citizens. I'm now a postdoc at a different university and again, most (but not all) of the postdocs seem to be foreign, although many attended college and/or graduate school here. Generally, my sense is that the U.S. seems to award relatively few doctorates, and then many people leave academia after the doctoral level, leaving a lot of room for foreign postdocs. I think (based on looking at young professors I know) the discrepancy continues at the faculty level at universities.

Again, I'm not too sure what to make of all this. I don't have a fundamental problem with having lots of foreign postdocs and faculty members, but I wonder if it says something about our science education. I'll be interested in comments.

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I do think this says something about education in America, but not necessarily science education. Read More


It might be due to the fact that over here Americans generally take education for granted. It might also probably be due to the current anti-intellectual or anti-academic climate of American society (and probably the wider global Western culture generally). I mean, a couple hundred years ago, intellectuals like Pascal and Descartes were celebrities. These days celebrities are more likely to be rock stars and other entertainers such as sporting and media peronalities. Further, Asian culture traditionally highly value education and by and large still does. They used to have to study very hard and take very stringent tests to get into government and official positions. Nowadays, if you have money and you are somewhat charismatic or charming, you get to go places.

Incidentally, we live in a cosmopolitan area in California that has a good number of Asian and Middle Eastern folk from probably more than 20 or 30 different Asian/Middle-Eastern nations. Most of them work in the high tech area, so they are themselves quite academically endowed and they encourage their own children to do the same. It shows in the high schools. The high school that my children go to is so competitive that young kids in 10th and 11th grades are taking not one, but two, three or more AP classes. Their GPAs are 4.5 out of 4.0 because of the weightings of these classes. If you are a 4.0 student at the high school, well, you are going to be in the middle of the pack. Two years ago, at my daughter's freshman orientation, one of the parents asked what courses his son should be taking in order to get into CalTech. The son had barely finished middle school, and the parent is already grooming him for CalTech. The rest of the Q&A for that evening was largely along those lines. Yes, most of the parents who were asking similar questions sound and look like they are from Asia or the Middle East, but their kids are either born in the USA or will grow up as American anyway. And their presence in the high school is causing the entire school to be competitive and affecting others as well. So, perhaps, while Americans of the older generation are getting increasingly anti- academic/anti-intellectual, perhaps there is a generation of "new kind of American" who will continue to uphold the intellectual/academic forefront/tradition?

This has everything to due with false government exchange rate, and nothing to due with the poor state of education in the U.S.

As a result wages have fallen and smart people don't usually work for free so they are leaving exportable jobs. They are becoming lawyers and plumbers instead. It sucks and the U.S. will soon be the slave of India and China. Oh well.

But isn't there a cause of the exchange rate being what it is?

Yes China, India, and other countries want do dry up investment in the U.S. while increasing investment in theirs.

It has destroyed Science and Engineering in the U.S. and has given the future world to China and India. Oddly, our government is not concerned beyond sending Snow (Our Last Treasury Sec) to China in a failed request to make thier currency have more value.

One dollar in the U.S. should have the same PPP (Percapita Price Parity) as in the U.S. The World Bank keeps some stats on this, but be warned that they include expensive products that know one would buy in India, China, or other low currency country. Although, the World Bank stats give an idea how skewed the exchange rates are.

Why should an engineer in India making 20k have the buying power of someone making 200k in the U.S. India ranges between 4 and 20 times as cheap as the U.S.

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