I have had the opportunity to speak to hundreds of young people in the US and recently the UK in an effort to understand why the number of young people (10-18), then (18-23) have dropped their interest in science and engineering to the current lowest world rankings in history, for these two countries alone.
Generally the answers were that the educational materials were boring, and surprisingly not the skill, but the innovation and enthusiasm of the teachers to engage the interest of the children.
Also science and technology were not presented to be an appealing life or interest.
The spark that certainly attracted me to become and remain interested in science and technology came from three teachers that I will never forget. Their passion for the subjects, ignited most of the class every time they walked into the room to teach. We were always "exploring science and technology together" in such visual and interesting ways that not many children felt intimidated, lost or fearful. We actually talked about these classes and about the things we melted or broke in class, during lunch or after school, because they were great memories, fun, and engaged our exploratory minds.
One of the TV shows in the early 60s our teachers "told us" to watch for fun, and would be part of our "experiments" portion, was Mr. Wizzard. Mr. Wizard was a weekly 30 minute show starring Don Herbert who played a science guy, and every Saturday morning a neighbor boy or girl would come to visit to help him work on a science idea proving something. Mr. Wizard always had some kind of laboratory experiment going on that taught everyone something interesting about science and technology. The experiments, many of which seemed impossible at first view, were usually easy enough to be re-created by all of us, and were. Passion for the subject creates the spark, we need to get this passion back.
Considering the world economy which remains in a terrible down turn for 2012, most education systems, including the arts, have been hit very hard and are struggling with great budget losses. This makes it very difficult in finding qualified and passionate subject matter experts in science and technology. Our world however, must discover now how to arrive more scientist and engineers (boys and girls) because they are desperately needed to support the near and long term future needs not only in teaching but in career working positions.
Currently there has been a continuing decline in men by over 36% and more so in women displaying an over 42% decline in Science and Technology interests as reported by OECD and ACER. These downward trends are more than alarming, because our future will depend heavily on science and technology solutions across every field. Without qualified teachers and interested students we will lose our near future technical advantages, job opportunities and most needed break thru leaps.
Please write me here to discuss any science and technology and in some cases I will also bring in some very interesting colleagues to discuss and debate all sort of interesting S&T topics. Next week we will discuss Zero Point Energy. Thank you!
Dr. Doug Linman, PhD