When I went to school, the IT class was new. Brand new. It was so new that once you moved beyond touch typing, which was what you learned in Year 7, there was not much else left for you to learn.
In every class after that, there were usually one or two students who knew more than the teachers did. This continued to be the case until the final years of high school, when suddenly we knew more than the assigned textbooks.
One year, when there were only a dozen of us in class, the teacher had us sit down and read through the textbook. Our job was to find every error contained within the standard issue textbook.
These errors included things like claims that a megabyte was supposedly bigger than a gigabyte or that fibre optics and broadband were synonymous.
Sometimes the lines of basic code were written wrong. This was the standard textbook for the state and it had so many errors that it deserved to be added to a list of World’s Worst Textbooks.
The early days of IT in schools were rough. But look at the world today. Without what we learned in that class, we would have been far behind the curve in terms of job opportunities or even day-to-day functioning in everyday life.
As much as we joke about some of those classes, they were probably some of the most important classes I had.
Everything we learned in those classes has been relevant today, right down to the high-speed touch typing, and some of us probably wouldn’t have pursued a career in IT without the preliminary classes to maintain our interest in the subject.
Today, schools are experiencing another very similar push forward. But it’s not teaching through Minecraft or the art of remote learning – it’s the proposal for a new subject to become STEM mainstream, and that subject is Quantum Information Science.
What is Quantum Information Science?
Quantum information science (QIS) is a unique subject that combines the principles of quantum mechanics with the theoretical elements of information technology to study the processing, analysis and transmission of information in a quantum context.
This area of STEM is rarely taught in high schools because of a lack of materials about quantum information science written at a level that high school students can understand, and a complete lack of state or federal quantum information science standards for schools to follow.
A few other arguments rear their head now and then as well, ranging from the fact that funding and opportunities for teachers or professional development focusing on quantum information science are lacking as well as a lack of pre-existing interest from high school students.
Between no one being able to teach and no one pushing to learn, why should the subject of quantum information science be taught in high schools? Well, here are six reasons right out of the gate.
1. It’s a Cornerstone of the Modern World
What are you reading this article on? Your phone? A computer? Well, both of those are built on the back of QIS. You’d be surprised by how many pieces of everyday technology in the modern world are tied to this field of study.
To name a few examples, mobile phones, satellites, MRI machines, lasers, cybersecurity, solar technology and even the hardware used for computers and video gaming rely on some amount of QIS.
2. The Employment Opportunities Are Growing
Schools are all about preparing students for the future. They’re also about preparing kids for the workforce.
If we’re considering these points, then adding a core subject like QIS into the curriculum is even more important, especially since it’s an ever-growing field that’s becoming increasingly more important.
Today, there are thousands of jobs worldwide that rely on a deep understanding of both quantum science and information technology. So naturally, there are plenty of employment opportunities for those well-versed in QIS.
We mentioned a handful above, but there are groups such as Q2Work that are attempting to address this and highlight the existing shortages in the workforce.
3. It Facilitates Advancements in National Security
The future of cybersecurity, according to large tech companies like IBM, lies in the advancement of quantum computing.
One of the biggest threats is the “harvest now, decrypt later” approach to stealing information, where hackers will simply take everything and assign their computer to break the encryptions, and because of the advancement of modern computers, even the most complex encryption is becoming easier and easier to crack.
Because of this, there’s a critical need for quantum science talent working in national security.
Fostering knowledge in this field early encourages students to pursue a career in it and can potentially result in advancements in national security.
4. It Fosters Student Interest In Education
Remember that story I told at the start? The classes we took in school on IT were important because they helped create student interest in the field of IT to begin with.
I grew up in an IT household, but I never had any interest in computers or computing until my years in high school when I was taking these classes.
It was its presence on the school curriculum that made me interested in the first place, and honestly, it didn’t matter that the teachers sometimes knew less than I did, because I was interested in learning more.
5. It Can Help Mitigate the Teacher Shortage
A new survey found that almost every public school is being affected by casual teacher shortages. The teacher shortage needs addressing, the whole system needs addressing, and this would be the perfect time to incorporate a new and vital subject into the mix.
Introducing classes on QIS led by passionate educators in the field will foster students’ interest and encourage the pursuit of further education in this field, potentially encouraging the completion of a Masters of Education in STEM.
6. Because it’s Fascinating
Quantum information science is a fascinating field of study. It’s taking the theories of experts like Einstein and learning how it impacts our modern lives.
Not only that, it’s learning how to take these theories and use them; how to grab this mystery of the universe and deepen our understanding of it.
It’s an act of exploration that has considerable future potential. QIS shouldn’t be in our schools just because it’s important for jobs or national security, it should be on the curriculum because it’s a rich goldmine of imagination and learning potential with practical benefits.
So there you have it, six reasons why QIS should be in schools, a fun little story about the early days of IT, and a genuine belief that if you want your kids to follow in the footsteps of Albert Einstein, why not let them?