With students from India and China fast catching up in the fields of science and mathematics, president Barack Obama is set to seek from the Congress an extra $1.35 billion to expand his signature $4.35 billion education programme, making it one of the largest investments in school reform in the U.S. history.

Mr. Obama will shortly visit an Elementary school, where he will announce his plans to continue the ‘Race to the Top’ challenge, requesting the Congress to grant $1.35 billion more for the programme in his fiscal 2011 budget, the White House said.

Designed to incentivise excellence, spur reform and promote adoption and use of effective policies and practices, the ‘Race to the Top’ is a comprehensive vision for school reform backed by a historic $4.35 billion investment.

Throughout his presidential campaign and in the last one year after becoming president, Mr. Obama has repeatedly emphasised the need to push American students more towards mathematics and science and on a number of occasions, he has said that students from countries like India and China are fast catching up with the U.S. in this field.

“We want to challenge everyone — parents, teachers, school administrators — to raise standards, by having the best teachers and principals, by tying student achievement to assessments of teachers, by making sure that there’s a focus on low-performing schools, by making sure our students are prepared for success in a competitive 21st century economy and workplace,” Mr. Obama said.

The competition has generated an overwhelming response from over 30 states in just the first round of funding, said Secretary of Education Arne Duncan. “By continuing, we have an opportunity to create incentives for far-reaching improvement in our nation’s schools.”

Mr. Obama’s plan will support further incentives for states to revise, strengthen and implement their plans for education reform in order to qualify for an award under the programme.

This plan will also invigorate district-level reform by expanding the ‘Race to the Top’ beyond just states but to school districts ready to embark on system-wide improvement of their education policies and practices.

“The continuation of the Race to the Top, which is one of the largest investments in education reform in history, is just one part of a larger education reform agenda that the Administration will unveil in the coming weeks, including continuation of the Race to the Top’s companion programme, the Invest in Innovation Fund,” the White House said.

The ‘Race to the Top’ emphasises on designing and implementing rigorous standards and high-quality assessments, attracting and keeping great teachers and leaders in America’s classrooms, using data to inform decisions and improve instruction, using innovation and effective approaches to turn around struggling schools and demonstrating and sustaining education reform.

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