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Science teaching has not advanced

How right you were in your Publisher’s Letter in the August issue of SILICON CHIP! I can clearly see the difference between being taught science in today’s education system and the way I was taught in Europe in the 1960s. With science and technology racing forward, you would think that the subjects would be way ahead of what us older blokes were taught but not so. I found this out recently when I assisted a younger student at a friend’s house with “science”.

This involved a very basic circuit with a battery, a globe and a switch. The young student could not see what use this was and in the end I explained that this was the circuit of a pocket torch. The science subjects were seen as a waste of time and a nuisance. Then came the maths and trigonometry; another useless subject. “Why do we have to learn this rubbish? We’ll never use it again.” In the end, I managed to explain the Pythagorean Theorem but wasn’t so lucky with equations.

Growing up in Europe in the 50s and 60s, I developed an interest in electronics and even today I am still building valve amplifiers for guitar players. With a seemingly inexhaustible junk box, transformers are no problem and neither are valves. With a multimeter and pen and paper, you soon know what will work and what will not. Am I supporting a dying art form? Will there be Australian-educated kids amongst the world’s scientists of the future in this field?

I am well aware that electronics manufacturing in Australia has been on a downward slope. We don’t build TV sets or radios anywhere I can think of; times and trends are changing. So it seems to me that there are no careers for young people in that field.

Does this mean that our kids are now taught the “legal minimum” of science by the subject being lightly brushed over, with understanding it as an option? I sincerely hope I’m wrong and a reader might be out there to fire up my optimism. However, I can foresee a generation coming up that will be one of button-pushers, unable to read the circuit diagram of an extension lead or worse, make one.

W. Schaaij,

Broken Hill, NSW.

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