Putting STEM back on the agenda.
The past decade has seen a substantial decline in economic commitment and educational engagement within Science, Technology, Engineering and Mathematics (STEM) in Australia. Coincidently (or perhaps not so), the past 10 years has also seen the proportion of Year 12 students taking advanced mathematics, physics, chemistry and biology drop by almost a third.
Some suggest that Australia’s declining appetite for STEM endeavours is attributed to the fact that mathematics and science are optional subject areas in secondary school, which arguably relegates their importance in the eyes of young Australians. Further, the shortage of qualified mathematics and science teachers is resulting in lowered levels of student engagement, interest and academic performance – thereby discouraging students from continuing with STEM endeavours.
Other theories suggest that Australia’s STEM dilemma is the result of a national disinterest in science and mathematics, which is ascribed to the fact that we have simply forgotten the fundamental role that science and innovation plays in our everyday lives.
So WHY is STEM important?
On a national level…
STEM is the foundation of an innovative culture, and innovation is key to driving economic prosperity in today’s competitive global marketplace. Despite Australia’s weakened interest, STEM’s necessity in growing the Australian economy and finding new solutions to old and new problems remains the same. Just think of the recent technological developments in education that we are fortunate to embrace – now think if we stop contributing and we get left behind… In order to remain a prosperous nation we must actively contribute towards global innovation – and STEM endeavours is where that has to come from.
On an individual level…
STEM gives us the opportunity to access a wealth of knowledge and information which contributes towards our understanding of the world. Everything from the mechanics and reasons behind daily functioning to the complexities of technology, comes from an understanding of STEM.
Beyond the acquisition of essential knowledge, STEM and in particular science, instils a sense of intrigue in individuals, and inspires us to think critically. To approach the world with a critical eye, not only helps to inspire innovation, but it also helps us to understand new concepts, make well-informed decisions and pursue new interests.
What can WE do?
From a national perspective, in order to reverse this declining interest – we must inspire interest in Australia’s youth and stop the current cyclical dilemma whereby students prematurely stop participating in STEM endeavours.
Fostering engagement in STEM depends on two things: inspired teaching and inspiring resources. Not only to convey complex principles but to instil a lasting passion. The more young minds are switched onto the possibilities of STEM, the more we can look forward to a prosperous future of innovation in Australia.