What Kinds of Competition Will Canadian Kids Face?
Missing Out on the STEM Revolution?
Canada has emerged as a world leader in many STEM fields, and as more and more businesses and organizations look to innovate, modernize, and grow, the demand for workers to fill STEM-related positions will steadily increase.2 Yet Canadian employers are struggling to fill their staffing needs. This is due in large part to the fact that a low percentage of working-age Canadians are graduating from STEM programs — just 18.6 percent in 2016.3
A survey by the Conference Board of Canada found that Canada ranked 12th out of 16 peer countries in this category, far behind leaders like Finland, Germany, Austria and France. In fact, immigrants hold over half the STEM degrees in Canada.
In response to this, the government of Canada and its federal partners have opened new curriculum and programs to give youth better access to inclusive, hands-on STEM experiences and to help Canadians participate in STEM fields.
One commonly held misconception, by both children and parents, is that math is primarily about the ability to calculate. Although that was never actually the case, technology has made it even less so.
The mechanics of math are becoming less important for humans … But a deep understanding of mathematical ideas and principles, and our capacity to think like mathematicians, are becoming more important. Because without that capacity, we will be unable to navigate the data, numbers, graphs or diagrams around us.
— Andreas Schleicher, Director, OECD Directorate for Education and Skills
From supercomputers running Big Data analysis to phone apps that calculate restaurant tips, we rely far less on our ability to perform calculations than in prior decades. Instead, computational thinking is the bellwether of success.
Much of what our children still learn in school — and are tested upon — is their ability to calculate. That won’t be enough to make them successful in the global digital economy. So increasingly, parents who recognize the importance of math and STEM to their children’s future are choosing to supplement their child’s classroom math education during the K-12 years.
But not all math tutoring programs will take children to the finish line. Stories abound of children who learn to crunch numbers but haven’t internalized the fundamental understanding that builds the foundation for true math comprehension and achievement. Therefore, it’s critical that parents evaluate programs for their ability to make math comprehensible in a way that builds foundational knowledge and that matches their child’s individual learning style. This creates an enthusiasm for math learning, rather than a resistance to math and math-related academic subjects and careers.
Equally important is that a math-tutoring program teach children to think critically and to solve problems independently — skills they’ll use in every area of their lives, forever.
Tomorrow’s workers — today’s children — will need critical thinking and problem-solving skills to compete globally and to address serious issues in a world whose only constant is change. By learning and growing confident in math, they can be ready to take on the world.