Ensuring even the youngest become knowledgeable

12 June 2018

It’s time to end the nerdy image surrounding science, technology, engineering and mathematics: STEM subjects should be made fun for girls and boys from as early an age as possible! Otherwise, we will hardly get a handle on the shortage of skilled workers in the IT sector.

The philosopher Richard D. Precht predicts that some difficult years of adjustment may well be followed by people being freed from “alienated labour”. What that would mean: with a guaranteed universal basic income, no one would be forced to accept employment on someone else’s terms. Our time would instead be freed up to find those things that provide a sense of personal satisfaction. After all, in all likelihood at least, you only live once.

But until that comes to pass, our education system needs to rapidly adapt to the numerous challenges the digital revolution poses for us. Above all, this means freeing the STEM subjects (science, technology, engineering, mathematics) from their worn-out association with nerds and making sure even the youngest of our children are conversant in them – girls as well as boys.

The current shortage of skilled workers in the IT sector shows that we need to tap into hitherto undiscovered young talent to ensure a better future for everyone. Model initiatives such as the “Verein Talente OÖ” deliberately aim to encourage children: learning should be fun and help develop individuality. This is accompanied by the general view that teaching staff are not our enemy, but a motivated group of people who should be compensated for performance that goes above and beyond, such as for workshops that take place at the weekend, or during school or university holidays. Promoting excellence means pushing the broadest possible range of people to their fullest potential. Discovering talented children requires tact, empathy and patience.

The current government has suggested a so-called talent check in year three of primary school. This is most welcome and, in my opinion, could be instituted at an even earlier stage. The earlier intelligence is encouraged and supported, the better it is able to develop. Contrary to popular opinion, intelligence is not something you are born with. And this is particularly important: neither socio-economic status nor gender should play any role in whether a child’s talent and aptitude is encouraged. Everyone can offer encouragement, and everyone is capable of learning. We are not talking about some elitist crème de la crème, but the potential that is inherent in everyone.