Can our schools deliver an education in technology?
The casual observer can be forgiven for concluding that today, more than ever before, most Australian high schools have a significant commitment, driven essentially by interpretations of State policies, to teach and learn more task specific job skills at school particularly in technical areas. Not only do we witness media releases of the imperative of computers in schooling but most recently, the high profile campaign to shift a significant proportion of school students into technically grouped trade/vocational streams (specific job category skills training). Indeed, policies and programs such as ‘ready for work’ target middle school students themselves. These strategies, essentially similar to Educational Sloyd, (Anon, 1910) and those practiced in the mid 1900s (Gibson & Barlow, 2000), are occasionally highlighted as innovative.
However, at least two specific issues may be explored in response to the above scenario. Firstly, the issue of what constitutes an education in technology? Secondly, if as we are to believe, job security is a thing of the past, manufacturing labour markets are shifting out of Australia and ideas/academic economies are poised to replace traditional vocations (mostly yet to be invented), what ought constitute an education that readies adolescents for employment? If our schools interpret technology in the curriculum as essentially and superficially the two extremes of VET skills application or ‘hightech’ information technology user skills, and little more, could our State School systems be selling a lolly to our youth: popular and tastes good in the short term, but is it good for their wellbeing in the longer term? Have our schools beguiled our youth to a future that at best serves a very narrow labour market to the many and a level of technology understanding that lacks sufficient depth to confidently make informed decisions in life that has carriage through a range of career changes and lifestyle and employment circumstances? If in addition we consider the policy push to reduce technology teacher degrees to the same VET specific level of technology skills instruction (a model the profession fought hard to be rid of 30 years ago), what depth of understanding and capacity for global awareness can students in schools expect from their new technology teacher graduates?
Post-print of Seemann, KW 2000, 'Can our schools deliver an education in technology?', Proceedings of Improving practice through research : improving research through practice, the 1st biennial International Conference on Technology Education Research, Surfers Paradise, Qld., 7-9 December, Technology Education Research Unit, Griffith University, Nathan, Qld, pp. 202-208.