Chancellor Merkel described the current situation in schools, saying that pupils start school with a thirst for knowledge and skills in using digital networks and technology. Schools needed to respond by teaching them the relevant know-how, she said, which was why the Federal Ministry of Education and Research was working to qualify teachers for these new challenges.
Schools need to teach digital literacy
We are all extremely dependent on digital technologies, the Chancellor said. Having internet access would soon become as normal as having access to safe drinking water. That was why schools needed to teach youngsters about the Net, computer programs and applications, Merkel went on. Digital learning in schools and in higher education was becoming more and more important, she said, though the opportunities for learning varied greatly especially in schools. What was needed, Merkel said, was a national digital education system that could stand up to international comparison.
The topic of the 4th National MINT Summit was "Seizing Digital Opportunities – Bridging the Digital Divide". Experts from politics, civil society, education and business discussed what the education system needs to do to enable people to carry on building their digital literacy skills throughout life. At the start of the conference pupils gave a presentation on their expectations of digital education, including new online learning platforms, digital teacher training and responsible, free access to the Web.
Firing youngsters' enthusiasm for MINT careers
"We cannot leave the future of MINT subjects and MINT careers to chance, but need to start early in order to get young people interested," Angela Merkel said. The Chancellor has often taken the opportunity to promote MINT subjects and careers. Mathematics, information technology, the natural sciences and technology pave the way for digital literacy. In 2008 the Chancellor became patron of the "Creating the Future" initiative. The MINT Forum and the "Creating the Future" initiative had achieved a great deal to promote education in the MINT subjects, the Chancellor said. Initiatives included school labs and technology days, MINT ambassadors and internships. Even kindergarten-aged children can do experiments in the "Tiny Tots’ Science Corner".
Jugend forscht needs more girls
A total of 250,000 pupils have taken part in the Jugend forscht youth science competition over the past five years. Only 38% of them were girls. Merkel called on more girls to take part.
Each year, as part of Girls' Day in the Federal Chancellery, Merkel herself encourages girls to take up a career in a technical profession. "This year, some 100,000 girls began a career in a scientific or technological field, Merkel said. More women were studying mechanical engineering, process engineering and information technology, she added, although there was still room for more.
Good future prospects
Young people who embark on a MINT career have a promising future and the potential to earn good money. Digitalisation meant that the MINT subjects were becoming more and more important, the Chancellor said. Anyone considering studying one of the MINT subjects would have to work hard, but had good long-term prospects, she said. Professionals in this field would be in short supply in the future. Having sufficient skilled workers was crucial for Germany so as to be able to retain its position as the most innovative place to do business. The wealth of patents with world market potential showed how much know-how was available in Germany, Angela Merkel told her audience.
The 4th National MINT Summit was organised by the National MINT Forum. The Forum has become the platform for and national voice of education and training in the MINT subjects in Germany. It brings together important players in MINT education and training, including trade associations, foundations, scientific institutions, employer associations and the Federal Employment Agency. The MINT Forum was established in 2012 by the National Academy of Science and Engineering (acatech), the German Employers' Association and the Confederation of German Industry. The Federal Chancellor is patron of the "Creating a Future" MINT initiative.