Technology in US schools: Are we preparing our kids for the jobs of tomorrow?

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Making a change begins with teachers

A 2018 study conducted by PwC in conjunction with the Business-Higher Education Forum shows a concerning gap between the expectations of educators and the expectations of business executives when it comes to preparing students for the job market.

By 2020, 77% of all jobs will require some degree of technological skills. There will be one million more computing jobs than applicants who can fill them. There’s a growing need for workers trained in STEM skills, but a shortage of graduates who have them. In fact, according to PwC’s annual CEO survey, 79% of US CEOs are concerned that a shortage of people with key skills could impair their companies’ growth.

To better understand the struggles teachers face in preparing young people with digital skills, PwC conducted a survey of more than 2,000 K–12 educators. We aimed to explore strategies to help educators better equip students with the technology and career-readiness skills needed to prepare for jobs now and tomorrow.

Most teachers aren’t confident teaching higher-level technology skills

Even though teachers see great value in their students learning higher-level technology skills like data analytics, computer programming languages, website design/creation and robotics, educators aren’t confident in their ability to teach these skills. Only 10% of K–12 teachers surveyed nationally feel confident incorporating higher-level technology into student learning. This data held true across grade level, school affluence, and teacher experience level.

Technology-related courses are not offered to many high school students, even though educators say the courses are beneficial

At least two out of five high school teachers surveyed report their schools do not offer courses in data analytics (80%), app design/creation (64%), computer programming languages (46%), robotics (42%), or web design/creation (41%). Of the K–12 teachers surveyed, 64% say they feel more emphasis should be placed on teaching technology.

"Students who are given dedicated time to learn technology-based subjects will be more prepared for possible jobs and view technology more like a tool and less like a toy."

- US teacher

Students do not spend much time in school actively practicing the higher-level technology skills needed for job readiness

More than half, 60%, of classroom technology use is passive (e.g., watching videos, reading websites). While only 32% of classroom technology use is active (e.g., coding, producing videos, performing data analysis), which requires students to practice the higher-level technology skills that are required for many jobs.

Teachers want more support from their districts

To bridge the gap between teachers’ support for students learning higher-level technology skills and their current lack of confidence to teach them, educators need more technology support and training. Of the teachers surveyed, 79% of them say they would like to receive more professional development for technology-related subjects.

Students lack access to devices and internet at home

Even though technology in schools is on the rise, students' lack of access to devices and the Internet at home makes it challenging for teachers to integrate technology in the classroom.

Teachers surveyed say some students do not have access to devices (40%) or the Internet (50%) at home.

Students in underserved schools are even more likely to lack access to technology at home

A larger portion of teachers at underserved schools report some students do not have home access to devices (64%) or the Internet (69%). Comparatively, only about one-third of teachers in affluent schools say some students lack access to devices or the Internet at home, 27% and 30% respectively.

About the survey

In spring 2018, PwC conducted a survey of more than 2,000 K–12 educators with the goal of identifying trends, attitudes, challenges, and opportunities regarding technology and digital proficiency in US schools. The study also set out to explore strategies to help equip students with the technology and career-readiness skills they need to be prepared for the jobs of today and tomorrow.

Contact us

Eileen Buckley

Eileen Buckley

Director of Responsible Business Leadership, PwC US

Shannon Schuyler

Shannon Schuyler

Chief Purpose and Inclusion Officer, PwC US

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