Tue | Jul 7, 2020

Colin McDonald | Draw brakes on STEM-centred education

Published:Tuesday | May 15, 2018 | 12:00 AM

Have our education bureaucrats lost their way? Reading in the daily newspapers of Monday, May 14, 2018, that we will move to mass customisation education is really going back to the days of the industrial revolution, which was 250 years ago.

Where is the thrust for critical thinking? Are we so myopic that we now think that a return to human automation is the best way forward for our national education system? I am at my wits' end to even think that our bureaucrats think that children without exposure will definitely be forced to study for a career that they expressed interest in at age seven or even 13.

Even more of a fallacy is that we educate to meet the job market. It is human innovation that continues to determine the needs of the job market, not

pre-emptive training. From the time, I was seven years old, till I was 20, I wanted to become a physicist, did all the right subjects at school, luckily mixed with a few other areas, I would go on to spend my lifetime so far working my way in social sciences.

I find that we look outside of our own needs and see what others are doing, China and Japan, to name two big ones, disregarding our own cultural history to try to adopt what others are doing, even in vastly different geopolitical circumstances, and want to adopt their models.

We need look no further than our big neighbour to the north, who has to be spending billions now to re-educate its population for multiple career pathways to allow them the options to have flexibility in staying in the job markets. Twenty years from now, the job markets will be vastly different from today, so to mass-customise our education system for today's job markets will be to leave us stuck in backwardness.

There is also a growing thinking that it is only science and technology, maths and engineering that should be the main focus of our national education system. The utterances of recent ministers of education say so.

The biggest mistake we are making is to ignore at our peril the social sciences. Without resource-capable practitioners in the area of social sciences, we will never be adequately able to socially engineer a livable society. As a matter of fact, it is what is missing from the conversation as we try to solve the issues of crime, gender discrimination and just plain common decency in our society.

Draw brakes! Do a complete rethink. This would be a disaster of major proportions for our country and our people to do away with generalised education approach and adopt the paradigm of mass customisation.

We are about to repeat the bad models of history if we do that.

- Colin McDonald is CEO and managing director of Our Story Tours Ltd. Email feedback to columns@gleanerjm.com and ourstorytours@gmail.com.