July 26, 2021
July 26, 2021
July 19, 2022
Liberal Education/Engineering & Society
The US National Academy of Engineering reports The Engineer of 2020 and Educating the Engineer of 2020 marked an important shift in policy thinking regarding engineering education: the emphasis of engineering education leaders thence shifted from producing engineers based on existing socioeconomic demands to actively envisioning and shaping the roles and characteristics of engineers in the future. Writing in the year of 2020, when engineering education yet again faces looming paradigm shift driven in part by a global pandemic and major powers’ adjustment in attitudes and strategies to globalization, we attempt to reassess visions of “engineers for the future,” as reflected through policy discourses in the United States and China, two major players in global engineering education. For this purpose, we present a careful reading of recent policy documents published by the US National Academy of Engineering (NAE) and the Chinese Ministry of Education (MoE).
The NAE (2018) report Understanding the Educational and Career Pathways of Engineers resulted from a study commissioned by the Academy to “understand characteristics and career choices of engineering graduates, … as well as the characteristics of those with non-engineering degrees who are employed as engineers in the United States.” Authors of the report sought to sustain the supply of competent engineers in the US by investigating “the engineering education-to-workforce pathway.” Around the same time that the NAE study was conducted, engineering educators and policy makers in China were engaged in a series of conversations aimed at renewing China’s engineering education for the next thirty years. These conversations laid the groundwork for the Emerging Engineering Education (3E) initiative, announced officially by the MoE in 2017 and followed by waves of funded engineering education research and practice projects across the nation.
This paper examines and compares the visions of “engineers for the future” embodied in the NAE (2018) report and the 3E initiative (2017) in China. Our analysis of policy texts seeks to answer the following questions: What assessment of engineering education reality in the US and in China respectively motivated the NAE study and the 3E initiative? What visions of engineers and engineering education are advanced in the respective policy documents? Accordingly, what changes in engineering education are recommended for meeting the visions proposed by policy scholars in the US and China?
Answering these questions will help us engage critically in discourses about the future of engineers and engineering education from a transnational perspective. Perhaps through conversations involving the global community of engineering educators, we might aspire to a broader and more inclusive vision of global engineering education than NAE and MoE has each aspired to accomplish in its own national context.
Cao, Y., & Ma, X., & Case, J. M., & Jesiek, B. K., & Knight, D. B., & Oakes, W. C., & Paretti, M. C., & Tang, X., & Xie, Z., & Zhao, H. (2021, July), Visions of Engineers for the Future: A Comparison of American and Chinese Policy Discourses on Engineering Education Innovation Paper presented at 2021 ASEE Virtual Annual Conference Content Access, Virtual Conference. https://peer.asee.org/38030
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