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: Change 'authoritarian' football culture to produce future stars, says research

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

Male-biased tweeting

19 hours ago

Today women take an active part in public life. Without a doubt, they also converse with other women. In fact, they even talk to each other about other things besides men. As banal as it sounds, this is far ...

Developing nations ride a motorcycle boom

20 hours ago

Asia's rapidly developing economies should prepare for a full-throttle increase in motorcycle numbers as average incomes increase, a new study from The Australian National University has found.

User comments : 0

More news stories

Male-biased tweeting

Today women take an active part in public life. Without a doubt, they also converse with other women. In fact, they even talk to each other about other things besides men. As banal as it sounds, this is far ...

Not just the poor live hand-to-mouth

When the economy hits the skids, government stimulus checks to the poor sometimes follow. Stimulus programs—such as those in 2001, 2008 and 2009—are designed to boost the economy quickly by getting cash ...

Archaeologists, tribe clash over Native remains

Archaeologists and Native Americans are clashing over Indian remains and artifacts that were excavated during a construction project in the San Francisco Bay Area, but then reburied at an undisclosed location.

Phase transiting to a new quantum universe

(Phys.org) —Recent insight and discovery of a new class of quantum transition opens the way for a whole new subfield of materials physics and quantum technologies.

Imaging turns a corner

(Phys.org) —Scientists have developed a new microscope which enables a dramatically improved view of biological cells.