Early encounters with engineering and technology are important for children

Apr 10, 2013

Teaching science and technology in primary education is a must if we are to avoid massive shortages of skilled technical staff in the future. It will also equip young people with the skills needed for the 21st century. For quite some time now, Prof. Juliette Walma van der Molen of the University of Twente has been advocating a new approach to education. This is based on research showing that children's natural interest in research and design (and the related professions) simply fades away if they do not encounter these activities in a positive context during their time at primary school.

Walma van der Molen points out that "Young are inquisitive and love exploring their world. At the end of their primary school career they show a pronounced interest in new technologies. Take or climate control, for example. Sadly, these topics seldom feature in ". "While children understand the facing society, they often fail to appreciate that (S&T) can provide solutions to these issues, and that they themselves can play a part in this process. Even before they leave , some pupils have already turned their back on certain job profiles. Children aged ten to twelve see science as difficult, boring and something for "nerds". They also view jobs in engineering as "dirty" and economically unappealing. Throughout their school career, children must encounter research and development in an accessible and creative way. It is important for them to discover that they enjoy it and that they have a talent for it. In this way, when they are older, they will be able to happily pursue science or engineering as career options rather than rejecting them out of hand.


"In our research section we believe that every single child has potential talents. Sadly, however, an excessive focus on literacy and numeracy means that we fail to notice the creative and innovative talents possessed by many children. This applies just as much to those who receive a recommendation for preparatory secondary vocational education as to high-achievers. As I point out in my inaugural lecture, a handful of compulsory lessons in S&T just won't cut it. It is important that projects should involve open-ended assignments and that they should be a spur to higher-order thinking. If they are to be truly effective, S&T projects must not slavishly adhere to a fixed lesson format. Instead they should enable pupils to examine issues from all sides, with a critical and creative eye. They should help children to formulate and shape their own thoughts, while allowing them to put forward novel solutions of their own. There should be opportunities for them to reflect, and to modify their views. Pupils should be made to understand that there is usually more than one correct answer or one fixed solution. Now more than ever, we need an approach that will help us develop our knowledge and improve existing issues."

Explore further: Pop music heritage contributes to the formation of identity

add to favorites email to friend print save as pdf

Related Stories

Science career 'not for me' say many 10 year olds

Jan 11, 2012

Children as young as ten already see a career in science as ‘not for me’. Despite the majority of children enjoying the subject at school and viewing scientists positively, fewer than 17 per cent ...

Study aims to improve sex education for deaf pupils

Jun 11, 2008

British parents are to be quizzed about their children's sex education in a unique study that hopes to improve the way the subject is taught to deaf pupils. The University of Manchester's Audiology and Deafness team is recruiting ...

Pupils' performances deteriorate during summer holiday

Jan 27, 2009

(PhysOrg.com) -- Researchers at the University of Twente, Netherlands, recently demonstrated that differences in pupils’ levels arise largely during holiday periods. They investigated pupils’ progress in the field of ...

Recommended for you

Pop music heritage contributes to the formation of identity

12 hours ago

The musical rebels of the past are today's museum pieces. Pop music is increasingly penetrating heritage institutions such as museums and archives. That is apparent from the PhD research of Arno van der Hoeven. On Thursday ...

Helping older employees stay in their jobs

12 hours ago

Factors that can hinder older employees from continuing to work include workload, a poor memory and the pensionable age-effect. The Job-Exposure Matrix is a newly developed instrument that provides an easy way to chart the ...

Explainer: What is a small private online course?

14 hours ago

If you have studied an online course at a university over the past couple of decades, you've probably already experienced a SPOC, or Small Private Online Course. SPOC is a new term for an old concept, which appears to be frustrating members of the distance edu ...

User comments : 0

Please sign in to add a comment. Registration is free, and takes less than a minute. Read more

Click here to reset your password.
Sign in to get notified via email when new comments are made.