The government’s Tertiary Education Strategy makes it clear that New Zealand needs to continue to develop a well-educated workforce, and that one of the priorities within this is to support high quality research that helps to drive innovation. So it’s fair to say that a fair proportion of that workforce needs to be employed in areas based on science, technology & education. To achieve that, we need to have a steady (& even increasing) throughput of students who successfully study those subjects at tertiary institutions. And to achieve that, we need to get school students thinking that a career in science/technology/engineering is definitely The Way to Go.
And therein lies the rub. Because there are so many other career options available to school students today, & so many other subject options to take at school. So how do we get students thinking about science, technology & engineering as part of their future? Maybe by producing video (or youtube) clips of cool young scientists talking about their jobs & how they got there? At Discovering Biology in a Digital World, Sandra Porter has another suggestion: music videos!
One of the commenters there suggested that hooking kids into thinking about science in this way is almost dishonest: if they’re not already interested in working in science in the future, then we should just leave them alone & cater just for the already-committed. Me, I’m with one of the others. Often when you see a science lab on TV it’s almost obsessively tidy & full of serious people doing Serious Stuff. A young person keen on science & wondering if they’d like lab work might be put off by that sort of formality. But the scientists shown in this clip are fairly young, obviously having fun & enjoying what they do, & the lab looks like a real working lab. (Although our Health & Safety people would have conniptions about the goings-on!) I’m not suggesting that we ditch the careers talks & go to town with Lady Gaga spoofs – but maybe there’s room for both approaches?