The Australian Industry Group recently released its report Progressing STEM Skills which identified the need to develop a national STEM (science, technology, engineering and maths) skills strategy to keep up with the demands of a sector with a high job growth rate in Australia.
A worrying finding from the report is that Australia is under-performing internationally compared to STEM strong countries. Participation by primary and secondary school students in STEM related subjects is decreasing and performance is below many countries in terms of international comparisons.
As such, the Australian Industry Group, along with Australia’s Chief Scientist Ian Chubb, outlined the desperate need to harness confidence in the STEM teaching profession by providing support in the form of professional development to enable teachers to more effectively deliver STEM curriculum and programs to ultimately lead to more engaged students.
In response, the STEM Teacher Enrichment Academy was launched at the University of Sydney.
The academy’s flagship is a multi-day residential program for up to 60 teachers of year 7-10 mathematics, science and technology. Additionally, the academy offers new teachers professional development and mentoring to become STEM ambassadors.
Speaking at the 2015 launch, Australian Minister for Industry and Science Ian Macfarlane mentioned the imperative for the growth of STEM skills in Australia.
“Australia is great at innovating, creating and thinking but not so great at collaborating,” Mr Macfarlane said.
“As such, the Australian Government has put science at the centre of our industry policy because science and research are vital to boosting the economy and supporting quality of life improvements for all Australians,”
“We must inspire the next generation of scientists and ensure that our graduates have both the academic foundations and the best practical skills to succeed in business or industry.”
Mr Macfarlane also noted that Government funding has been allocated to mathematics and inquiry coding across schooling and STEM in general.
Professor Ian Chubb, Australia’s Chief Scientist, said that Australia has complacency towards STEM and that this needed to be changed.
“Australia has not been good at learning from successful programs and scaling it up,” said Mr Chubb.
“What’s needed is a shift. A shift in perceptions of science from the margin to the core. A shift in learning from text books to innovative and creative methods. A shift in STEM teachers – how we train, recognise and support them,”
“A common element of high performing [in science, technology, engineering or mathematics] countries is teachers are held in high esteem. Students develop a love of learning, science and curiosity grows from a young age.”
“How many students think what they learn in maths and science is irrelevant? What number of students have we lost in this process?”
“We need to break the cycle of under achievement and better the service our teachers provide.”
“We need enthusiastic and supported teachers, committed and understanding parents and government collectiveness to improve our overall STEM position.”
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Image: The Chief Scientist