An interest in science was developed in a former Rose of Tralee, Aoibhinn O Suilleabháin, whose father encouraged her to stargaze, as the 22 year old Rose said “This is what I really want to do with my year, promoting maths and physics as well as Irish culture”.
Remarkably in Ireland companies in the science and technology sectors are taking little comfort from this year’ Leaving Certificate results, showing continued issues with the uptake of Higher Level maths. Only 16% of students sat the paper, but problems were far from restricted to the higher level, with over 4,300 failing the subject across all levels. This situation has the potential to effect the reputation of Ireland as an excellent location for multinational operations and also can reduce the attractiveness of Ireland as a place for foreign students to attend college.
How can this trend be reversed? Curiosity and an interest in problem solving are two of the key qualities needed for a person who wishes to study computer science or Information Technologies at development level. Aoibhinn O Suilleabháin’s father, possibly, recognised the importance of observing the sky, as a way of developing understanding of the nature of things and broadening the mind.
The ability of individuals, in today’s Internet centred world, to access massive amounts of information on seemingly every subject presents both benefits and challenges to the learner in the education system, there can be an apparent futility to learning things that can be Googled in a few seconds, and students will be quick to point this out to teachers given any opportunity.
Looking up information is not learning. This rarely has the effect of developing understanding or broadening the mind, which are essential components of an educated person. Over the next number of years technology will become more central to the learning experience for students, but we need to ensure that it does add to their education not just provide them with rapid answers to difficult questions.