Tuesday, 8 November 2011

DCU Conference on Linking Education and Enterprise

Last week I was kindly invited by DCU Vice President for Innovation Richard O'Kennedy to speak at their intervarsity Conference organised jointly with University of Massachusetts Lowell and Queens University College. The title of the conference was 'The University and Economic Recovery - The role of Technology Enterprise and Learning Approaches.

Professor O'Kennedy had attended my Presidential Address in September on behalf of DCU and requested that I repeat my theme 'Building a Sustainable Recovery' but amend to suit the conference agenda which I did.

On arrival I was greeted by Professor Brian McCraith DCU President who opened the conference and gave the keynote address. He was followed by Dr Ruth Freeman Director of Enterprise and International Affairs at Science Foundation Ireland http://www.sfi.ie/ and Dr Muiris O'Connor Head of Policy and Planning at the Higher Education Authority http://www.hea.ie/. SFI is the principal funding agency for third level research in Ireland mostly in Biotechnology, ICT and sustainable energy. HEA is the statutory planning body for higher education in Ireland. Both Muiris and Ruth outlined their recent and future policy and funding priorities for higher education in Ireland.

Brian MacCraith President DCU
Courtesy www.dcu.ie

Dr Ruth Freeman
Science Foundation Ireland
Courtesy http://www.sfi.ie/
Muiris O'Connor
Higher Education Authority
Courtesy http://www.hea.ie/
In my speech I outlined the results of the 2010 US Critical Skills Survey of employers seeking to grow their business. In their prospective employees they will be seeking the 4 Cs - Critical thinking, Communications ability, Collaboration/team building and Creativity/innovation. Indeed in his earlier remarks, the DCU President expressed similar views based on a DCU commissioned survey of employers. I pointed out that the current education system in Ireland has not traditionally recognised these skills but instead has been based on ‘rote learning’ and ‘single point assessment’ through end of term examinations to a significant degree. There is thus an urgent need to reconfigure our education system to address these skill deficits if we are to recover the economy. The teaching of Maths is a good example of this issue with the recent introduction of the Project Maths approach of “learning through understanding”.

Engineers are uniquely placed to assist in this reconfiguration as the 4 Cs are in fact the key competences also sought by Engineers Ireland to attain Chartered Engineer status for over 10 years now. That includes radically reconfiguring our approach to the STEM (Science Technology Engineering Mathematics) subjects at second level especially mathematics which more than other subjects needs a new approach to curriculum, teaching method and assessment. In terms of the humanities and the need to increasingly export our knowledge services, we also need to invest in foreign languages both European and Asian in particular.

I instanced all of the educational initiatives which Engineers Ireland are now taking to assist the situation nationally in the STEM subjects including the STEPS programme at primary and secondary level, the Innovative Student of the Year at third level, the Maths Grinds on Saturday in Dublin which we hope to extend to other cities and the recently launched TV advert promoting Chartered Engineers - 'Will You Come With Me' (click here to view advert)

I was delighted to hear that my views on education policy were closely aligned with those of Brian McCraith DCU President and Muiris O'Connor of HEA in particular on the maths and many other issues including the need for better management of the transitions between primary, secondary and third level.

1 comment:

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