Welcome back to my blog. It’s been so long since I updated it. But now there is a reason to update it.
They are about to take away my first ever evidence of journalism – when I was writing for Hijacked in May last year. To celebrate that momentous occasion (sarcasm), I’ve attached some of my work below. If you would like a copy of all the articles, send me a message through the contact page -Hans
Why I agree with Turnbull’s decision to make maths and science compulsory
The Turnbull government’s newest policy for this election plans to implement compulsory mathematics and science beyond Year 10, with the rationale of increasing a range of occupations like engineers and statisticians. It also helps us to compete with the education programs of certain Asian countries.
Despite being a writer and a humanities major all my school life, I think that everyone needs mathematics. It could even replace English as the compulsory subject. But science? Chemistry isn’t really necessary to succeed in life, unless you want to become Bryan from Breaking Bad.
In 2014, 9.7 per cent of all HSC candidates did not study mathematics. Nationally, levels of students choosing to undertake Mathematics are decreasing rapidly. Further, there is a gender disparity – females still comprise two thirds of those who do not study Maths or Science and male rates of electing to take these subjects have stagnated.
Some reasons why I’ve heard people turning away from these subjects include: they don’t need it, they don’t have the interest in it or it’s flat out nerdy. And while all this whining is occurring, the OECD have released an investigation which examines low performers in STEM subjects (science, technology, engineering and mathematics) and what learning opportunities they are missing out on.
To begin with, of all the OECD countries, at least 25% of the jobs available requires some use of mathematics at a reasonable level. The report also found that those with better numeracy skills (not necessarily excelling, mind you) generally have (a) better health and (b) are more likely to be found in the top quarter of all earnings.
Even exposure to just four extra hours of pure mathematics (that is mathematics that is simply used to solve the problem at hand) is strongly related to better performance in the real world. And yet mathematics resistance in the HSC has tripled since 2001 and only slightly less than half of the eligible cohort every year do not take science.
The Refractive Index suggests that (particularly for science) the curriculum needs even less facts and more discussion to spur “extensions of knowledge”- inferring that scientific interest will remain if we let students discuss it.
…of all the OECD countries, at least 25% of the jobs available requires some use of mathematics at a reasonable level.
Of which, this sounds quite rough and vague to me. Will “discussion” be the only implement required to increase Australian children’s chances competing with the rest of the world?
So what should be done? The University of Sydney and OECD provide two interesting models to solve this numerical crisis. Associate Professor John Mack suggests that prerequisites should be set for allsubjects requiring Advanced Mathematics and/or Science. Mack also suggests that public education programs need to address greater importance on these disciplines and “encourage” greater participation rates.
The First Year in Maths project also admits that it is as much about the student as is the teacher and suggests before we make any STEM subject compulsory, we have to assure greater access to qualifications for teaching candidates as well as raising the stakes for mathematics skills for all students in the report.
Whatever method is used in an educational system reform that is long overdue in Australia, we need to recognise there needs to be a greater opportunity to learn mathematics and science in schools and encourage students, parents and all stakeholders in education that the future is in those who have the numerical, technological and scientific capacities.
And for those who argue about compulsory STEM subjects cause more awful grief in high school than it needs to, get over it. There shouldn’t be a priority of one over the other, but the truth is that the brightest future in this world into the future will go to those who can do the sums and program the motherboards. So they may say that money can’t buy you happiness- but if money gets you what you need to survive and to live as an innovator, maybe the Turnbull policy does make sense.
Why I won’t be voting labor or liberal this election
“My failures have been errors in judgment, not intent.”
This quote by the 18th President of the United States Ulysses S. Grant still remains relevant nearly 150 years later – in Australia. The failures of our government are also errors of judgment, but of a different kind. Instead it’s a failure to act, and thanks to people-powered news, we’ve all worked out that this was very much intended.
And so I have made up my own mind, just two and a bit months before the Federal Election, that I will not be voting for the current government or the current opposition. Why? Because they don’t care what the hell we say any more. It’s like watching Citizen Kane in real life – drugged faces of political parties which can’t sort out its act together. Well done you fools.
Food for thought
Xavier Toby writes the following quite perfectly in his The Age column:
“If you voted…
Liberal, you’re selfish.
Labor, you want to waste money.
Liberal, you think stuff everyone else, my money is for me.
Labor, you believe in sharing for the good of society, but don’t mind that a lot of it will be going to the least effective workforce in all of human history.
Not much of a choice, is it?”
Perhaps it is possible we are all selfish. As university students many of us are too busy questioning whether we’re doing the right degree, where we want to live and what occupation we want to do when we graduate. We’re only trying to plan the rest of our lives without a lot of money or a lot of hope. Fantabulous, huh?
The “positive” policy
The Labor Party’s “positive” (greatest irony ever) policies include lowering the voting age to 16, providing “more humane” assistance to asylum seekers (at a cost of nearly $500 million to an already deeply in debt budget) and legalising same-sex marriage in 100 days.
And in its university-centric rhetoric, the Party will introduce a student funding guarantee as well as upskilling 25,000 teachers. The earlier of these concepts will cost money (indirectly) and the latter will cost money too (directly through funding).
Labor also wants to take out an extra $31 million to boost resources in universities, remembering again, we are nationally lacking money. We still haven’t sorted out primary and secondary education collapses yet, and that problem is a decade old (and apparently will take an extra decade to get to the levels we need to be.)
To which I use Dr Baxter’s words from Destination Moon from the Adventures of Tintin:
“Time! We don’t have time!”
…or the money. And for what resources? Well, this Party, who is supposedly in favour of university students, didn’t ask us either.
And it’s no better in the blue corner either
As for us university students, the Government’s higher education promises include “restructuring government research funding” and “stable sources of infrastructure funding”. In reply to Labor, the Coalition promise a “comparative advantage” to Australian education as opposed to direct benchmarks. No figures, no numerical goals, nada.
General answers, great reactions, no points with us!
So wait – what results? Stable sources? Infrastructure funding? Supporting international students? We cannot even afford to get home-grown students studying in higher education because it’s bloody expensive.
No one asked us what we think should happen to higher education, whether the budget deficit will be fixed soon.
No one asked us. No one.
So why should we vote for the major parties when their “listening” is in fact geared towards the funders who will keep them in business?
All we’re asking of you, both Liberal and Labor, is that you trust us. We’re not dumb. But if you at least listen to us, we might just guarantee you the right to keep governing us.
You have been put on notice. You are welcome.
To retrieve some of my other content, again, message me.