Has technology made basic life skills obsolete or do they still have value? 45



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Last week when opposition leader Bill Shorten delivered his budget reply he impressed millions of people when he said he promised $25 million in funding to train technology teachers and committed to making computer coding part of the curriculum. It was a bold move, one that people all over the world supported. But at what cost would this training be funded? The education budget is tight so what subjects would lose out? It wasn’t until rumours began circulating suggesting that maths, home economics and workshop – historical life skills would be the losers before we realised what this meant. Are we living in an age where they aren’t important? Today we want you to share your thoughts – could you have survived without these basic skills? Or are they simply becoming obsolete?

A recent study in Ireland by Amarach Research found that 1 in 5 people believe that coding is more important than maths. It also found that 2 in 3 adults believe that learning computer code is equally as important as business, geography, music, history, maths, languages and English.

We often don’t realise that we’re using computers almost every step of the way in our lives. But every time you use iPads, mobile phones and computers, fridges, air conditioning and cars, credit cards, EFTPOS machines, public transport systems and calculators, you’re doing it. We walk on bridges that were designed with technology and sit in buildings that were engineered with computers. It’s everywhere and to make it a standard skill – not specialist as it is now – is really great. But is it the most valuable education investment we’d like to see made for our grandchildren?

Australia is in a maths teacher shortage and maths standards in Australia are slipping on a global scale. Regardless of its popularity, we all use maths. Anyone who has read a bus timetable, looked at a bank account, read the time or done the grocery shopping today has used maths skills at some point. Home economics is also in decline. Gone are the days when cooking, sewing and mending were important. In our throw-away society when take away food is the cost and time efficient option, where clothing and home textiles are purchased instead of made and where fixing things isn’t ever considered, has home economics really lost it’s importance? Then there’s workshop, where people can understand the fundamentals of construction and learn basic trade skills, but do computers do the hard stuff for us now?

A while ago, we published an article about a recent study showing that baby boomers had a good knowledge of maintenance tasks compared to younger generations who had a very low competency of the same skills. The younger generations don’t value basic life skills like our generation did and this could indicate that it’s simply a sign of the times?

However the truth is, that while computer coding and technology is critical to our future, we can’t forget the past. Maths is a skill that helps to develop an understanding of technology. Without home economics, no one knows what to do when the Thermomix breaks or the microwave and oven are down and only a stove is left. What happens when someone finds him or herself unemployed and has no extra cash to buy a replacement shirt for the one with the rip? If people don’t know the fundamentals of building and construction, how are they to develop and use tools for the engineering?

It’s a scary place we’re heading if we forget the basics, as they underpin everything that anyone does in every day and professional life. Already, there have been sad ramifications when people choose to ignore the essential lessons. A friend who is a pilot said that the problem with pilot training for many organisations today is that they’re learnt to fly the plane based on the computers – but if the computers fail, their ability to read the instruments and manually fly is severely limited.

So this begs the question, what is a valuable skill? Are we at the point in evolution where we can forget about the basics and leave it up to technology to do it all for us? Could you have survived without basic skills? Share your thoughts in the comments below…

Starts at 60 Writers

The Starts at 60 writers team seek out interesting topics and write them especially for you.

  1. With the obesity epidemic we seem to have, the foods and nutrition components of home economics might be one to keep.
    You can’t keep cramming more into the curriculum without pushing something out. To suggest getting rid of maths seems counterproductive if coding is included, not to mention future tradies. Are houses to be built by robots? More people trying to ring Centrelink.
    What about those kids who shine in the more practical skills? Not everyone is an academic; that’s why schools had a broad range of subjects.

    2 REPLY
    • totally agree, loved Home Ec or Domestic Art as we called in the early 60’s. learned so much over 3 yrs in nutrition, how the body works, vegetables etc…. How many children ieteenagers dont even know the names or have seen some vegetables…? They should never have dropped it.. My granddaughters go to private school and it has been introduced there and they love it, love cooking etc…

    • Time to bring back all the skills we learned in school, bring back the tech schools if needs be for these skills to be completed

      1 REPLY
  2. Yes it is, technology has moved forward an these kids need an edge if we want to compete with other countries. Australia can be a leader. It only takes vision.

  3. Parents don’t have TIME any more, work all the week, and take kids to after school activities, etc, homework, housework . Weekends housework, activities. No time. I HAD to work when mine started school and I found it was easier to do it myself, was done, no mess. no fuss. Computer coding OK, for kids who want to do it, We need schools like I went to ,a choice of Technical , basic Technical ,Home Science, Schools for Higher math, In 1952 ,in 6th class we sat an exam ,depending on your results you got a choice of 2 or 3 types of school. I went to Home Science High School , We did Home science & Cooking in first year, Then typing ,bookkeeping in next 2, plus the other subjects ,with a choice of 2 maths. 9 subjects for Intermediate Certificate

  4. Someone once said to me that we used to be grounded in the three Rs. Now the school curriculum teaches a small amount about a lot of subjects and soon we will know nothing about everything! I fear he was right. Being so educated that we are of no earthly use defeats the purpose of education. I was in a supermarket once a few years ago, where the till was on the blink. The poor girl didn’t know how to add up the cost of the items.

  5. We have lost home skills that would have been taught by parents. They are important but time poor now because of our want of more ‘ things’ or just to keep roof over their heads

  6. Computers rule our brains…. everything is done by computers. Back to basics will prolong life and make the brain think for itself instead of a computer doing it.

  7. Yes it is necessary to start off with the basics. I didn’t even have a calculator when I was at school and did home science. Maybe people would do more home cooking instead of living on takeaways.

  8. I guess we only need to ask how each of us will cope should there be a tsunami/earthquake etc and there’s no electricity/water/sewerage and the pantry is bare.

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