Artificial intelligence, bullying and a lack of women in STEM are heavy subjects for any mind, let alone someone yet to celebrate their 16th birthday.
But those were the topics Quakers Hill High School student Kopal Mathur enjoyed delving into during a recent work experience stint with the Department of Education and Training.
The Year 10 student was one of 20 selected from around the state for the intensive two-day ‘Secretary for a Day’ experience.
The Education Week component gives talented student leaders first-hand experience of what is involved in running a NSW government department.
Kopal shadowed the deputy secretary for corporate services, Michael Waterhouse, where she took part in meetings and later attended a youth forum to discuss student leadership and wellbeing.
Some students are actually discouraged from studying physics and mathematics in high school, females especially, which is pretty surprising.
The experience made her more certain she wanted to pursue a career in law.
“I was really looking forward to seeing everything in action. The working environment was awesome,” she said.
“To learn and to be exposed to something was huge for me. It was fun too, that was the thing, it wasn’t like it was a job.”
On the second day, the 20 students discussed issues including bullying and the future of education.
“We discussed the artificial intelligence revolution, how it impacts jobs in the future and how we could prepare for it now in schools,” Kopal said.
“Some students are actually discouraged from studying physics and mathematics in high school, females especially, which is pretty surprising.”
Kopal said parents and teachers need more understanding about the modern warning signs of bullying, which often involves exclusion and takes place over social media.
She said parents need to be aware not just when their child may be at risk, but also when they may be taking part in bullying.
Kopal was selected for the program based on her written application, which outlined her leadership experience, interests and what she hoped to learn, as well as the endorsement of school principal Rebecca Mahon.
“Kopal is an outstanding student in all respects,” Ms Mahon said. “She is a focused and academic young woman who has consistently demonstrated the highest standards of commitment to her work and always displays a courteous and helpful attitude.”