A major challenge facing oathur modern society is the shortage of skilled personnel in technical professions. Too few school leavers choose to train and study in this field, and of those who do, many fail to meet expectations. Apprentices who struggle with percentages or first-year engineering students who, despite excellent grades, can’t distinguish between equilibrium of forces and reaction forces attest to problems with learning at school.
In many countries, including Switzerland, improving science and mathematics education has become a task shouldered by society at large. It’s one that many people, not just state institutions, feel committed to tackling. Companies particularly, who are dependent on qualified specialists in the long term, generously support extracurricular activities designed to awaken or deepen interest in technology. As a result, countless programmes and centres – often flouting fanciful names – have sprung up, where kindergarten and school children can experiment, build robots or engage in similar activities.
Flamboyance is counterproductive
These may sound like excellent opportunities – and granted, there are many less meaningful ways in which young people can spend their leisure time. But we need to ask whether and to what extent such extracurricular activities are effective, and whether they conflict with regular school learning objectives. This can certainly be the case if they present inaccurate content or convey an image of STEM learning that is out of line with reality (STEM: science, technology, engineering and mathematics).