Education is the essential foundation for prosperity and opportunity. It strengthens our democracy, enriches our civic life, and serves as a pathway to economic success. It also cultivates young people’s talent and creativity, encourages them to connect with other people, and inspires them to discover and analyze the world in which they live. Everyone – including those in academia, business, and government – plays an important role in education.
During my initial months here, I have been impressed by Slovak achievements – in business, the arts, sciences, and government. But I have also heard that maintaining that trajectory faces challenges including the shortage of qualified labor, high unemployment, brain drain, the marginalization of minorities, corruption, and the rise of disinformation and extremism. Investment in education is key to addressing these challenges, and Slovakia is increasing its spending from its current 3.8% of GDP towards the OECD average of 5.2%. That is money well spent.
A more effective educational system can help Slovakia transition from a manufacturing-based economy to a knowledge-based economy. It can also arm young people with the critical thinking skills they need to distinguish fact from misinformation in today’s increasingly chaotic news and information landscape. This requires investing in training teachers, offering more science, technology, engineering, and math (STEM) courses, and pushing critical and creative thinking to develop better argumentation and communication skills.
The U.S. Embassy is investing in Slovak education, as well, and we are working with our local partners to expand education opportunities for Slovaks. Through our Fulbright Commission and EducationUSA advising centers, we offer opportunities for Slovak students, teachers, and scholars to broaden their horizons and acquire new skills and knowledge by studying in the United States. I encourage you to explore these programs at http://www.fulbright.sk/studium-v-usa.
Strong partnerships between schools, businesses, and governments can more efficiently and effectively cultivate young talent as the core of resilient economies and communities. Our young minds need us, and now more than ever, we need them.