Soft skills' leading future Australian work force "badly astray": Chief Scientist

Source: Xinhua| 2018-11-26 08:44:17|Editor: Shi Yinglun
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CANBERRA, Nov. 26 (Xinhua) -- Alan Finkel, Australia's Chief Scientist, has warned that the push for young Australians to develop 21st century skills has led the nation "badly astray."

Finkel, an engineer and entrepreneur who was appointed Australia's Chief Scientist in 2015, warned against the trend of training the next generation of workers to be generalists rather than masters in certain disciplines.

He cited figures that showed the number of students studying intermediate and advanced mathematics through secondary school has declined.

Finkel used the example of creating his own company, Axon Instruments, and how he deliberately hired "discipline specialists who could work together not generalists who thought the same."

"I would still build my company the same way," he said in a keynote speech to the Fifth International Science, Technology, Engineering and Mathematics (STEM) in Education Conference as reported by News Corp Australia on Monday.

"And I worry that we, as a nation, will go badly astray if we take away from the next generation of workers the disciplinary ladders that we climbed ourselves; if we strip back the expectation that students will study hard content, in sequence, through direct instruction; and if we bulk out every study program with the same generic soft-skill components."

The Australian Curriculum, Assessment and Reporting Authority (ACARA) recently signalled its intention to redesign the mathematics curriculum to focus on generic skills.

Supporting Finkel's sentiment, Australian Mathematical Sciences Institute (ASMI) director Geoff Prince described the idea that general skills would maximize employability as a myth.

"All our graduates should be literate, good communicators and able to work in teams, but this must be integral to their discipline training, not an end in itself," he told News Corp Australia.

"This is self-evident but the noise around soft skills' is distracting us."