A global study recently found Australian 15-year-old students lag 3.5 years behind their Chinese counterparts in maths, with their performance in all three major subjects in long-term decline.
While it seems a given to most people that schools are giving young people an education that prepares them for the future, is this goal actually being achieved?
Sharryn Napier, VP and Regional Director at Qlik ANZ thinks not.
According to Napier, the current curriculum must undergo a transformation that will teach the skills that are relevant to children and young people, now and into the future.
“It’s no secret that data has permeated every aspect of lives, and sits at the centre of global industries and conversations, touching everything from elections to weather. As with most topics, there are multiple sides of the discussion,” Napier said.
“On one hand, there is fear; that is, fear of the rise of machines and automation stealing our jobs.”
Napier also pointed to fear surrounding data misuse, such as the Facebook and the Cambridge Analytics situation and how it's being used by big corporates and governments “to influence people’s behaviours, challenge democracy and threaten safety”.
“Despite its flaws, data also has clear benefits for humanity, for example the ability to provide new applications especially those that offer humanitarian and medical benefits or even to combat global issues like the climate crisis,” she said.
“How can we ignore the potential that data holds? And, what can be done to both utilise and protect data?”
Napier said that regardless of where people sit in the debate, one constant is a “sense of inevitability”, which can be seen across the globe when it comes to the rising role of data in our lives and in our economy.
“For example, LinkedIn’s 2020 Emerging Jobs report again shows that the explosion of data is one of the most disruptive but game changing forces we’ll see in our lifetimes, with two of the 15 emerging jobs having ‘data’ in the title,” she said.
“My hope is for individuals to understand the need and action becoming more data-literate – in other words, be able to process, read, work with, analyse and argue with data, as well as become more “data-savvy”, understanding where their data resides and for what purpose it is being used.”
Napier said this has made her reflect on the question of whether schools are teaching children the data literacy skills they need to succeed in the global economy.
“Maths and science results in Australian schools have collapsed, meaning something clearly isn’t working,” she said.
“In order to remain competitive on a global stage, Australia must boost education results, teaching the skills that are relevant to children and young people, now and into the future.”