Last Saturday in Washington, D.C. (and in more than 600 cities worldwide) Bill. Nye, the Science Guy, was one of the Leaders of the nationally-organized March for Science (technology a strong enabler). He addressed the crowds this way: “Greetings, fellow citizens. We are marching today to remind people everywhere, our lawmakers especially, of the significance of science for our health and prosperity.” Meanwhile in the White House, a few hundred yards away, “so-called President” Trump was putting the finishing touches on a one-page news bulletin detailing the tax benefits and major reductions for the wealthiest Americans in his new plan. I don’t think he was as concerned about insuring continued scientific progress that would advance Americans’ “health and prosperity.” To the contrary, he was still working on how to repeal and replace Obamacare.
Trump would have us all believe that our planet is NOT environmentally endangered. Unfortunately, he is also being supported by a rise of anti-scientific notions – the anti-vaccination movement and climate-change denial in particular. Nye argues that “When you become scientifically literate, I claim, you become an environmentalist. Somewhere along the way, there has developed this idea that if you believe something hard enough, it’s as true as things discovered through the process of science. And I will say that’s objectively wrong.”
Thank you, Bill Nye. May we all “Live long and prosper!” 🖖
For technology to have an impact in Vietnamese classrooms, the path of least resistance appears to be in the vocational education classrooms around the country. Vocational training courses are on the rise, and vocational schools had an eighteen percent increase in attendance from 2011-15. The Vietnamese Ministry of Education and Training is perhaps the biggest booster of change of educational focus. Ministry leaders are convinced that schools should take the initiative and work with enterprises in developing new training models and renewing curricula. Let’s just say that in this part of the world these words are more than simply “suggestions.”
So when the Ministry says that new teaching methods are needed I think they are also taking aim at the teacher training colleges that already appeared to have graduated an overwhelming surplus of teachers who can not find jobs (70,000 estimated). To teach in Vietnam, you may just simply have to learn a new set of skills. That is not just the case in Vietnam as we all know well. Here is what the Deputy Minister of Education and Training had to say about all this.
“Global integration and the movement of Vietnamese labourers to other countries and foreigners to Vietnam because of the Association of Southest Asian Nations (ASEAN) Economic Community and international trade agreements, requires schools to renew curricula and methodology for a new age.” Now that sounds better!
I am not really that sure how to comment on what this all means (and I apologize for the lateness of this blog on a M0nday night in the U.S.). But I am fascinated about the concept of having child White House Science Advisors, particularly since the one recommended by President Obama was fortunate enough to have an iPad in his hands as a toddler. As an adolescent, he has now been successful in making toys and miniatures on his 3-D printer.
What’s not to like about all this? Mostly, there is a lot to like, and this story should be an inspiration to us all. But why do STEM (Science, Technology, Engineering and Math) success in the early academic grades warrant a presumption of better preparation for livelihood in the twenty-first century? Some might say that we are limiting our children’s futures with such early predeterminations. And as a parent in the end of the last century and now a grandparent in the current one, I continue to believe that all of our current school-age students will probably need some facility in STEM subjects, and many others as well. I think the real challenge is to prepare these students to be much broader and curious learners. The world is changing much too quickly.
Our children need to feel that they contribute in many varied and meaningful ways. STEM subjects may be the routes for many bright students, but there are also many other avenues for future learning and success in this century.