Perhaps the first good suggestion that Australia’s education minister, Christopher Pyne, has made is the reintroduction of compulsory mathematics into our systems higher schooling education.
Many of his idiotic plans in the past involved slashing any funding support for Australia’s local university students – something that may have increased the cost of obtaining a degree fourfold – as well as how he supposedly ‘fixed’ scientific research funding by slashing $150 million dollars from it!
The unfortunate thing about politicians in Australia is that most of them, especially the bunch is power at the moment, simply and dangerously just disregard the importance of mathematics and science in regards to both the workforce of our country, and its own young and bright students. Let us not forget the impact Australia has had on science in the past. We have had the father and son, Sir William Henry Bragg and Sir William Lawrence Bragg being awarded the Nobel prize in physics for their work on X-Ray crystallography, which later allowed other to determine the structure of the double helix structure of DNA. Another thing, believe it or not,is that Australia actually played a major role in broadcasting Neil Armstrong’s first steps on the moon when the Parkes Radio Telescope in central west NSW was used to broadcast the images to televisions around the world. I’ll add just one more thing in here, CSIRO radio astronomer John O’Sullivan had developed a key technology to unsmear Wi-Fi signals which finally allowed devices to form stable connections with them – and this all came from “a failed experiment to detect exploding mini black holes the size of an atomic particle”.
Nevertheless, the respect towards the scientific community, along with its funding, has degraded over the past couple of decades – which came to an all time low when the current Australian government removed the science minister from their cabinet, along with shutting down Australia’s only Climate Change Commission. Despite embarrassing himself further upon mispronouncing the word ‘ion’ while giving a speech to a room of physicists last year in Canberra, Christopher Pyne has suggested the reintroduction of compulsory mathematics AND science into higher year schooling. While this pales in comparison to the other missteps taken above, it does give me some hope that it will better prepare students for further education at tertiary levels, where mathematics and science are suffering due to a lack of interested and passionate students.
Where this becomes increasingly important however is to the general education of ALL students. Many of you out there will throw the argument towards me of “when will I ever use that in my life”, and do not fear, for I have an answer to your conundrum.
Well many of you won’t. This doesn’t mean that the opportunity to use it didn’t come up though – you may not have seen that opportunity in your work or every day experience to employ the use of mathematics, or you may have just disregarded it because you didn’t know how to use it (I can assure you that maths pops up in far more places than you realise). However the real crux of the argument comes down to the skills you obtain while learning mathematics and science. It’s not about knowing Pythagoras’ theorem (which everyone should regardless), or that the equation of a straight line is y = mx + b. It comes down to your ability to reason, your ability to critically analyse a situation, and the ability you obtain as a problem solver. No matter where you end up in life, these three skills will become invaluable to both yourself and your employer. And you sure as hell don’t get those from reading Shakespeare.
I believe that is suffices to say that it is not a question of playing to your strengths. For students in the HSC, it’s not necessarily about running away from maths and science because it is difficult (and it is, even for the students who enjoy it), it’s about doing what is necessary. Many students (and unfortunately quite a few adults who got away without ever doing a maths or science course) have not been exposed to the real world, for which the three aforementioned skills are invaluable.
And for this I am all for the reintroduction of compulsory maths (and perhaps even science), which should have never been made an ‘option’ in the first place!