With 2.5 quintillion bytes of data being created every day, it is increasingly important for university graduates across all industries to be experienced in analysing and interpreting data, and those without solid foundations in mathematics and science may struggle. Of concern, the percentage of students in NSW not studying any maths in their final school years has trebled since 2001.
With many Year 10 students having selected or in the process of selecting their subjects for the HSC, it is important for parents and students to consider the impact of skipping maths or science on future aspirations. We know that 75 per cent of the fastest-growing occupations now require STEM (science, technology, engineering and mathematics) skills, so having good foundations in maths and science are valuable (if not essential) attributes of successful graduates today.
If your child is considering dropping maths or science ahead of the HSC, take a moment to research and discuss what impact it might have on their future options. Even if your child doesn’t intend to pursue a career in STEM, it’s important to understand the role technology has and will have in transforming their chosen industry. According to UTS, even an area such as journalism will require transformational skills in coding, audience metrics and deep data analysis in the future.
HSC maths and science subjects teach skills beyond the course content; they help students develop analytical, problem-solving and critical-thinking skills, which are needed at university and in future workplaces. The importance of mathematics is also demonstrated by the recent move by the NSW Government to announce it is implementing a compulsory NAPLAN benchmark in literacy and numeracy by 2020 for eligibility for the HSC.
When students choose their HSC subjects, they may pick subjects with a career or industry in mind. Some students may want to choose the same subjects as their friends, or because a particular teacher is taking the subject. If your child already has an idea of what career they wish to pursue, they are likely to select subjects that are particularly relevant to that area. Universities often list assumed and recommend HSC subjects for their courses, so check these have been included in their HSC subject selection.
If your child doesn’t yet have a particular career in mind, or are likely to change their ideas several times, encourage them to do some research and keep their options open. Start with the school’s career adviser, use the government’s Job Outlook career quiz, encourage them to speak to family friends who work in different industries and consider organising work experience in areas which they find appealing. Many schools offer work experience programs which can help students understand what a particular industry or workplace may have to offer.
As a parent, you play an important role in encouraging your child to take an analytical approach, conducting research and ensuring they have strong groundings in maths and science in particular, to allow the opportunity for a range of future careers and possibilities.
Sally Payne is the Associate Dean of Studies at UTS Insearch
Prior to becoming the Associate Dean of Studies, Sally was the Program Manager for UTS Foundation Studies and the Diploma of IT where she was responsible for the academic management of the pathway diploma program and of the UTS Foundation Studies program. She is the Chair of the Academic Teaching and Learning committee and leads the Quality Assurance program for UTS Insearch courses. Sally also oversees the scholarship and professional development committee for academic staff and is responsible for the Study Success Advisers and the learning support programs.
First published in the Newcastle Herald on 26 July 2016