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Aussies rank technology ahead of science for student learning

Technology has pipped science by a fair margin as the most important subject Australians believe children should be learning at school, according to a newly published nationwide survey.

The survey commissioned by the Commonwealth Bank reveals that more than two-thirds — or 69% — of Australians say technology is more important for learning, compared to 56% for science.

The majority of Australians (65%) also wished technologies like coding and how to use new technology were a more significant part of the curriculum when they were at school.

And, the survey revealed that Western Australia is the state most strongly in favour of students learning more technology subjects today, while NSW put a stronger emphasis on the creative arts than other states.

But it’s not just technology and science which Aussies believe are important for school kids to learn, with nearly three quarters — or 74% — thinking children should spend more time at school learning life skills, and with over half (52%) thinking students best learn life and practical skills from their teachers.

The release of the national survey comes as the Commonwealth Bank and its partner, education not-for-profit Schools Plus, launch the nomination period for the 2017 Commonwealth Bank Teaching Awards.

The Teaching Awards will offer 12 Fellowships of $45,000 each for teachers and school leaders who are inspiring and transforming the lives of their students whilst preparing them with the life skills they’ll need for the future.

Each Fellowship includes $10,000 for the recipient’s professional development and $5000 for participation in a 12-month fellowship programme that includes a study tour to Singapore. In addition, each winner’s school will receive $30,000 to fund a project designed to improve student performance and wellbeing.

The survey investigated the classroom subjects and skills that Australians valued most from their time at school, and asked them to consider the most important subjects and skills for today’s generation of school kids.

Other key stats from the survey include:

  • Three quarters (76%) of those who finished school over 30 years ago say technology is one of the most important subjects for children to learn today.
  • Two fifths (40%) of Australians say technologies were the most important subject they learnt at school.
  • Nearly a third (31%) of Australians said technologies were the most useful subject after school.
  • A majority (70%) of NSW residents think Australian students should be learning more life skills at school.
  • In addition to STEM subjects, almost half (49%) of Australians believe health and physical education is an important subject for children to learn today.

The survey also revealed three quarters of Aussies believe students should spend more time learning future-focused skills like communication, problem solving and critical thinking in school.

And communication (77%), problem solving (77%), critical thinking (63%) and relationship building (63%) are the top skills Australians think students should be learning today.

In other survey findings, Gen Ys and Gen Zs were the most likely to believe these “21st century skills” should be a bigger focus in school, while many Aussies also said schools should spend more time on STEM (science, technology, engineering and maths) subjects.

While most Australians rated problem-solving and communication as the most valuable skills they learnt at school, the Teaching Fellows also said skills that improve well-being are important for students today.

Kylie Macfarlane, general manager Corporate Responsibility, Commonwealth Bank, said, “With the classroom and school activities becoming such a large part of kids’ lives, it’s not surprising that nearly three quarters (74%) of Australians believe kids should be spending more class time learning life skills.

“The Commonwealth Bank Teaching Awards recognise the enormous role teachers play in preparing children with the life skills they need for years to come.”

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Peter Dinham

Peter Dinham is a co-founder of iTWire and a 35-year veteran journalist and corporate communications consultant. He has worked as a journalist in all forms of media – newspapers/magazines, radio, television, press agency and now, online – including with the Canberra Times, The Examiner (Tasmania), the ABC and AAP-Reuters. As a freelance journalist he also had articles published in Australian and overseas magazines. He worked in the corporate communications/public relations sector, in-house with an airline, and as a senior executive in Australia of the world’s largest communications consultancy, Burson-Marsteller. He also ran his own communications consultancy and was a co-founder in Australia of the global photographic agency, the Image Bank (now Getty Images).