It was reported in the local paper that people are considering removing the pre-requisite special maths for students studying engineering, science and maths at Adelaide University. As someone who has a degree in engineering I find this rather bizarre because there is simply no way in a pink fit you could get that degree without being skilled at maths, and for good reason. Maths is important. It forms a fundamental cornerstone for a whole range of subjects such as fluid dynamics, thermodynamics, stress analysis, acoustics and pretty much everything else. Now some might argue that we need to turn out graduates who are practical orientated and this sort of theoretical underpinnings are not what industry need.
Having worked in academia, private industry and and now public research there is real limits to what graduates with a hands on, practical approach can do. I have worked with graduates from all the local Uni’s and many of our readers are aware of the philosophical distinctions between them. In fact 2 of the 3 universities have already dropped this pre-requisite according to the papers. This might be fair enough for some places if say the demand for such skills is non-existent but for heavens sake, not all Uni’s and you better have a good reason, one I’m yet to hear.
What I have heard though is that the reason is not enough students are doing these courses so the entry requirements need to be eased off. What a stupid solution to the wrong problem. The issue with falling numbers of students starts in the primary schools and the disgusting lack of resources put into teaching maths and science in primary schools in South Australia. If kids don’t get to enjoy these subjects, let alone even get exposed to science, there is no freakin’ way they are going to spend their lives with maths or science as a part of it. I went to a local public primary school and my kids have now done so to. And there seems to be a pretty big change in the quality of teachers from the 70’s as compared to today. I have read the curriculum and I’ve seen the teachers and I’ve seen the science rooms turned into other uses. And now we are complaining about a lack of skilled workers and needing to dumb down uni to get enough students.
Every year SkepticsSA sponsor a prize at the Oliphant awards and it’s great to go along and see the great work from the kids. We actually donate about 10% of our budget to this, that’s how important we think it is. However most of the kids are from private schools because the public schools either don’t have the resources or the teachers, but most likely both. There are a few public schools involved and the science teachers here do a fantastic and admirable job. However I think the education department really isn’t helping. Every year I see first hand what is happening to science and maths at the primary school level and I think it’s about time we put out to pasture some of the post-modernist wankers who seemed to have taken over the system. The clueless twits with their air headed views based on a vacuous philosophy are simply not helping society in dealing with the demands and challenges of the 21st century. This sort of philosophy at it worst leads to the sort of bullshit with creationism being seen as an equal to evolution and at best watering down, to a moronic and useless level, of the sciences and maths. This might be seen as a simple ad-hominem attack but I base my views on my observations over the decades of the level of scientific understanding in the general community and the ability the think scientifically.
It’s not getting better and the interest in the sciences, the number of students going on to higher education in these fields and the skill shortage in South Australia in well educated technical type people is further evidence of the perceived unimportance of science.
If we really want to solve our skills crisis, if we really want an educated and intelligent society that can deal with huge demands of a rapidly changing world then the best place to start is with our primary school kids. We need more science and maths teachers with a passion for the subject and we need a government that is willing to fund the education department to a suitable level. Yes, it will cost money but that’s what I pay taxes for.
If we did this we wouldn’t have to dumb down out entry requirements to university. If we don’t do this we might as well practice flipping burgers and selling souvenirs to the tourists.
..and don’t get me started on the state government allowing our premier science education centre to close down..or the lack of support from industry.