RESEARCH TRIANGLE PARK, N.C. Most Americans with at least some college education say in a new survey that the United States will lose its dominance in global technology in the 21st century.

That sobering finding, which Duke University’s Pratt School of Engineering released on Tuesday, points to a major problem in our country – STEM education.

STEM stands for science, technology, engineering and mathematics.

And people with the most education realize the challenge the U.S. faces from China, India, Japan and other countries. They acknowledge that our education system is badly in need of upgrades and that more young people need to be encouraged to pursue STEM careers.

Unfortunately, among Americans with just a high school education or less who participated in the survey, the majority believe the U.S. will maintain technological balance.

When are more Americans going to wake up and realize that just because the U.S. dominated the 20th century, there is no guarantee its technological hegemony will continue in the age of BRIC (Brazil, Russia, India, China)?

“In judging America’s leadership position, less-educated Americans are more optimistic than are better-educated Americans about the nation’s relative position in the 21st century,” the Pratt survey says. “Fifty-eight percent of adults with a high school education or less think that the United States will be the technological leader, versus 45 percent of adults with at least some college education.”

Pratt released the survey as part of an engineering conference taking place at Duke this week.

The differences between the two groups is just as striking when they were asked whether the U.S. has improved its capabilities to compete technologically over what the survey calls “the past generation.”

The higher-educated group said 31 percent believed the situation had improved while 44 percent of the less-educated believed progress was being made.

What country will emerge as the technology leader this century if it’s not the U.S.?

China received the vote of 20 percent in the survey, followed by Japan and Europe (10 percent each) and India (4 percent).

So how should America best address the challenges it faces in technology?

  • 71 percent call for more training and retraining of workers
  • 66 percent recommend upgrading K-12 STEM education
  • 62 percent want higher standards for teachers and students, including higher graduation requirements
  • 41 percent want more government funding in research and development
  • 37 percent said the school year should be lengthened by a month so more STEM education can take place
  • 34 percent want changes in visa and immigration policies so the U.S. can attract and retain more of the world’s “best and brightest”
  • 33 percent suggest targeted tax breaks to encourage investment in key industries
  • 33 percent called for tax breaks to businesses to increase investment in R&D.

For more on the survey, .