The popularity of Mathematics and Science is increasing among upper secondary school students. There are many reasons for the rise of natural sciences. For the Masters graduating from the University of Jyväskylä, their multidisciplinary and innovative study subject combinations provide an asset for working life: For example, combinations of Mathematics and Special Education or Physics and Economics yield desired broad-based expertise, writes Maija Nissinen, Vice Dean in charge of education in the Faculty of Mathematics and Science.

During the spring, there has been discussion in the media about the rising popularity of Mathematics and Science among upper secondary school students. It has been considered that this rise is mainly due to the new crediting model of the matriculation examination for student admissions.

As a scientist, I believe that Mathematics and Science in themselves are interesting and motivating subjects to an upper secondary school student.

The debate around the crediting model tends to aggravate and polarise discussion, leading to a confrontation between the humanities, such as languages, and the subjects of mathematics and science. Such a confrontation is uncalled for, however: scientists need language and communication skills in their daily work, and a humanist or social scientist benefits from logical thinking and understanding of basic natural phenomena.

Multidisciplinarity and broad-based education and expertise are assets in the modern world of work:

Rather than narrowly focused special expertise in a particular field, it is more important to be able to apply one’s skills and knowledge to a larger context, obtain and produce new knowledge more broadly, and to understand, with an open mind, also the discussion partners coming from other academic fields.

Moreover, another important skill pertains to communicating about one’s work and expertise. Only this way we can resolve major global issues ranging from sustainable development to climate change and further to the medical, social and economic problems caused by the pandemic.

Multidisciplinary degrees are promoted in the Faculty of Mathematics and Science

In the Faculty of Mathematics and Science, educational planning aims particularly at enabling multidisciplinary degrees. Students can select and orient their studies broadly within the faculty and take advantage of the educational provision across the whole university as well.

For more than fifteen years already, the cross-disciplinary study programme in Nanoscience has educated experts with broad-based understanding of natural sciences for different sectors in society. In class and subject teacher training for Science subjects, the studies include a comprehensive set of education in addition to Mathematics or Chemistry, for instance.

As a Vice Dean, I am delighted to see innovative and diverse subject combinations in the degree certificates of Master graduates: Chemistry and Philosophy, Mathematics and Special Education, Biology and Social Sciences or Physics and Economics.

It is similarly delighting for a Professor of Chemistry to see an educationalist or Sport student attending a Chemistry course.

There is demand for experts of mathematics and science in the world of work. Career paths are diverse, the spectrum of job titles is vast, and our alumni have been employed across the world. During the past year, our faculty has collected career stories from alumni to motivate applicants and students and also to tell various stakeholders about the expertise and professional competences of our alumni.

The alumni stories indicate, without exception, appreciation for our education and, on the other hand, also the usefulness of applying the meta-skills and knowledge gained through the studies.

Several alumni find in hindsight that cross-disciplinary studies also beyond faculty borders would have been useful.

Fortunately, the developing provision for continuous learning enables upgrading and updating one’s competencies also after graduation. I encourage our students to build personally suited study paths and to view the study path as a lifelong journey. A degree is just aa staging post on the road of education.

Maija Nissinen

The writer is Professor of Chemistry and Vice Dean in charge of education in the Faculty of Mathematics and Science, University of Jyväskylä.


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