The illusion of an easy life: what the future holds for youth and education
We live in a fascinating world where users can stream gigabytes of video with a single touch or voice command, drive their autopilot cars, book airline tickets, and transfer money instantly to anyone, anywhere. And they have no idea what level of science, math, and physics is behind it all.
My grandfather graduated from 8th grade, my father had a university degree, I graduated from graduate school and am constantly studying because I am interested in how the world around me works. 100 years ago, if something broke down in an average family, in 99% of cases people could fix it themselves. Imagine that your 7-nm processor in your smartphone breaks down, what do you know about it?
I once conducted an experiment, asking my friends without engineering education how Wi-Fi works. The most we came up with was electromagnetic waves. But the source of these waves is no longer known.
On the other hand, schooling: chemistry, biology, geography, and physics - all these subjects are meant to show us how wonderful the world is around us and how it works. And since there are more and more gadgets around us, and this is also the world around us, it would be nice if we knew how it works. And this is exactly what STEM education is all about.
Many people don't understand why children have to go through 12 years of schooling and then another 6 years to get a master's degree, thinking that a calculator and Google will make everything easier and faster. But the time is coming when Google will ask itself, and people who can't do some really complicated things will simply be replaced by algorithms. As they say, the world is divided into those who order food and those who deliver it. But delivery will probably be done by drones very soon. And then there will be unemployment. Of course, the world is not and will never be limited to engineering professions. On the other hand, the demand for STEM specialists is already many times greater than the supply on the market and definitely greater than for specialists in the humanities. This is despite the fact that we live at the dawn of the development of robots and artificial intelligence. The rapid technological development of the world will lead to many transformations, and the one I would like to talk about is a significant increase in the level of education required to support the technologies around us. And imagine what level of education people will need to create new things in medicine, engineering, space, etc.
100 years before the steam locomotive, Newton and Leibniz discovered integral and differential calculus. These and other scientific discoveries enabled mankind to implement the first technological revolution. Almost 400 years ago, the Frenchman Pierre Fermat played with prime numbers in his spare time, which helped us a lot in the 21st century to safely withdraw money from a card or buy something online. But most people on planet Earth 400 years ago did not know how to divide numbers and certainly did not understand why Fermat stayed up all night. Unfortunately, the situation is repeating itself (not many people today can add fractions with different denominators).
In 2016, the famous Ukrainian mathematician Maryna Vyazovska solved the problem of packing balls into eight-dimensional space and received the prestigious international Salem Prize. Where are we and where are the eight-dimensional spaces? We are very close, and thanks to this proof, gigabytes in networks began to transfer faster. And there are many examples of this.
The problem is that few adults can explain to children what Wi-Fi is (including teachers, unfortunately) and the importance of such deep, marathon learning, in particular. And children are surrounded by bloggers who earn a lot of money and often, in my opinion, know little :-). As a result, we have a bunch of universities where students go to higher math classes without knowing quadratic equations or fractions. There is no point in continuing, but the positive consequence of this situation is that it is really difficult to find a good engineer, math teacher, or programmer, not in the future, but now. This is an opportunity for many young people to get an interesting and well-paid job. Moreover, salaries in this field are constantly growing.
All over the civilized world, countries are fighting for such specialists, realizing that it costs millions of dollars to train one PhD. By providing visas, grants, jobs, and investing budgetary funds in venture capital funds, the West is creating a long-term advantage, because the economy of the future is an economy of ideas and creative people. And these ideas will be implemented by engineers (often Ukrainian) through high technology.
In my opinion, the only hope in Ukraine is the market and conscious parents. Therefore, private schools, clubs, tutors, etc. can change the situation if parents send their children in this direction. How can this be done? Let me explain with my own example.
I try to watch more fantasy and science fiction movies with my kids. Since my older children are involved in programming and robotics, I often ask them how they imagine a certain feature in the movie to work.
I also try to constantly ask my children how this or that thing we use in the family works. For example, how ABS works in a car or a fuel gauge. And then we watch the corresponding videos on YouTube. I believe that this develops children's thinking no less than biology or chemistry lessons. It also gives them a broader outlook and helps them dream about what they want to become in the future.
We try to watch popular science channels on YouTube, for example, about space or ecology. Again, thinking about the future in these areas. Or we watch videos about blockchain for children. And we think about how we can use or link this technology to some everyday activity. For example, to a glass of milk in the evening. And the children say that you can track the cow that gave this milk. You can show a video about artificial intelligence for children, etc.
As a math teacher, I either show some interesting video ideas from points 2-3 at the beginning of my lessons and see how interest in learning grows. Or I start a math lesson with some motivating story. For example, how IBM started (they created a device that automated the census in the early 20th century) or about the first ever computer program written by Ada Lovelace 100 years before the first computer. Children, especially in high school, think about the future. And if you combine the knowledge of math or physics with something that interests them and show them that this is the way to success, they will learn much better and even on their own!
I don't know if there is any way to influence teachers of physics, math, computer science, and technology in an average high school to use interesting videos to broaden their horizons and motivate children, but it's worth a try. At the very least, you can send interesting content to chats, for home viewing in addition to homework.
Nowadays, there are many different technological clubs: robotics, programming, aircraft modeling, etc. But the main thing here is probably to support your child when he or she starts going there. After all, studying there is often not so easy.
If you are lucky and have a good school near you, then everything is fine, but if not, the invisible hand of the market is always there. If you persevere long enough, you will eventually notice that children start talking not about Brawl Stars characters, but about what kind of spaceship they want to create. Or, I've seen this in our school, how an imaginary unit(s) can be raised to the power of an imaginary unit an infinite number of times.