The National Cyber Security Alliance (NCSA) – a non-profit public-private partnership focused on cybersecurity awareness and education for all digital citizens – announced Friday, Oct. 28, that on behalf of the National Cybersecurity Education Council (NCEC) it has signed a memorandum of understanding (MOU) with the U.S. Department of Education (ED) and the National Institute of Standards and Technology (NIST) to institute and promote cyber security education programs in K-12 schools, higher education, and career and technical education environments nationwide.
The new agreement paves the way for the continuation of the recently established public private partnership known as the National Cybersecurity Education Council to build a consensus on the future of cyber education in the United States.
The multi-stakeholder effort will bring together government, industry, nonprofit, academia and other educational organizations to make recommendations and suggest guidelines on cyber education.
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The collaboration will also include all parties participating in a working group to identify the cyber education needs of all young people and the foundational knowledge, skills and competencies needed by government and industry to build a workforce that can protect America’s vital digital assets.
“Our children live in an interconnected technology-based world with a growing need for digital skill sets,” said U.S. Secretary of Education Arne Duncan. “An education that incorporates tools to understand, navigate and operate technology will encourage students to exercise awareness when using digital platforms while helping better prepare them for the jobs of the future.”
Cyber education is also critical to the nation’s economic growth as evidenced by a recent survey, conducted by Zogby International for NCSA and Symantec, of U.S. small business owners that shows a high portion of businesses need employees with cybersecurity skills.
When employers were asked to rate skills necessary for new hires, U.S. small businesses report the following skills are very relevant or essential:
- Understanding privacy (51%);
- Importance of protecting intellectual property (49%);
- Basic knowledge of using technology ethically (47%);
- Basic knowledge of Internet security practices (passwords, identifying secure websites) (44%).
In addition, NCSA and Microsoft recently conducted research on the state of cybersecurity education and the results make clear better cyber education is needed in America’s K-12 classrooms.
- More than one-third of U.S. K-12 teachers (36%) received zero hours of professional development training by their school districts in issues related to online safety, security and ethics in the past year. (86% received less than six hours of related training).
- Only 51% of teachers agree their school districts do an adequate job of preparing students for online safety, security and ethics.
- Few K–12 educators are teaching topics that would prepare students to be cybercapable employees or cybersecurity-aware college students. In the past year, a mere 4% taught about careers in cybersecurity; 20% taught about knowing when it is safe to download files; 23% taught about using strong passwords; and just 7% taught about the role of the Internet in the U.S. economy.
“Our future depends on a digital citizenry that can use the Internet safely, securely, ethically and productively,” said Michael Kaiser, executive director of the National Cyber Security Alliance.
“Today, the United States faces a daunting challenge. We need to build a cybersecurity ready workforce trained to deal with a constantly changing digital infrastructure that is protected against a broad range of cyber threats. This broad effort is critical because cybersecurity and digital safety touches everyone.”
Photo courtesy: NCSA