The US Department of Education’s mission is to promote student achievement and preparation for global competitiveness by fostering educational excellence, advancing STEM skills, and ensuring equal access

The department was created in 1980 by combining offices from several federal agencies. Today, its 4,400 employees and $68 billion budget are focused on:

Financial aid

The department distributes financial aid to eligible applicants throughout the nation for early childhood, elementary, secondary and postsecondary education programmes. Federal programmes benefit all students, and special programmes exist to serve individuals with disabilities, those who live in poverty, Native Americans, immigrants and those with limited English proficiency. Federal funds for education are distributed using three methods: a set formula, competition and financial need determination.

Collecting data and disseminating research

The department oversees research on most aspects of education; collects data on trends; and gathers information to help identify best practices in education, including teaching techniques that work. Employees of the department, as well as contractors and grant recipients, carry out the research.

Research findings and statistics are disseminated to educators, policymakers, parents, researchers and the general public in the form of reports and publications – both printed and online. Recent publications have covered the latest national assessments of educational progress in a variety of subject areas, innovations in education, the condition of education in America, annual reports on a variety of federal education programmes, how to improve mathematics education and many other pertinent education topics. In a typical year, the department publishes hundreds of publications and millions of copies to meet the public’s demand for information.

Education reform

The department makes recommendations for education reform. The secretary advises the president in this regard and leads the department in implementing the president’s education policies in many arenas – from the preparation of legislative proposals for Congress to decisions about education research priorities. Of vital importance in formulating and implementing policies is the department’s close work with a variety of advisory groups and organisations composed of citizens from all walks of life who have an interest and expertise in education and who provide significant ideas on key policies and programmes.

In addition, the secretary brings national attention to education issues by giving speeches, writing articles for publication, addressing the media and making personal appearances in schools and other education settings. The department further highlights education issues by sponsoring and participating in national conferences and other similar activities, such as the Blue Ribbon Schools and Presidential Scholars award programmes, the Teaching Ambassador Fellows Programme, the Student Art Exhibit Programme, and special events and ceremonies to honour teachers or students.

Equal access to education

The department enforces five civil rights statutes to ensure equal educational opportunity for all students, regardless of race, colour, national origin, sex, disability or age. These laws extend to all state education agencies, elementary and secondary school systems, colleges and universities, vocational schools, proprietary schools, state vocational rehabilitation agencies, libraries and museums, and other entities that receive US Department of Education funds. Specific examples of those whose rights are protected include homeless children with disabilities, individuals with limited English proficiency, women and girls in athletic programmes, and people in need of vocational rehabilitation.

STEM skills

In an ever-changing world, it is more important than ever that children are prepared to bring knowledge and skills to solve problems, make sense of information and know how to gather and evaluate evidence to make decisions. These kind of skills are developed in science, technology, engineering and mathematics, including computer science, collectively known as STEM/CS.

The department endeavours to ensure that all children have access to STEM literacy and educational options regardless of where they live.

In 2018, the STEM Education Strategic Plan, Charting a Course for Success: America’s Strategy for STEM Education was published setting out a five-year plan to ensure the US is the global leader in STEM literacy, innovation and employment.

The strategy plan focuses on three overarching goals:

  • Build Strong Foundations for STEM Literacy by ensuring that every American has the opportunity to master basic STEM concepts and to become digitally literate.
  • Increase Diversity, Equity and Inclusion in STEM by providing all Americans with lifelong access to high-quality STEM education, especially those historically underrepresented and underserved in STEM fields and employment.
  • Prepare the STEM Workforce for the Future by creating authentic learning experiences – for both college-educated STEM practitioners and those working in skilled trades that do not require a four-year degree – that encourage and prepare learners to pursue STEM careers.




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