Above: Australian Chief Scientist chairing the STEM Forum in Melbourne on Jan 30th
CaSPA was among a group involved in the Education and Industry sectors to provide input at a Forum held in Melbourne on January 30th. The Government have been looking at ways to enhance the delivery of STEM in schools and so value add to the economy. There is data to suggest that Australia is slipping behind other countries in its promotion and training in STEM related areas.
The Forum looked at a range of issues in including how best to measure the preparation students receive in STEM areas - is for example, the international assessment tools such as PISA providing accurate enough data on Australian students.
There was also some discussion on the worth of school-industry partnerships in areas such as work experience for students, career guidance, exposure to leading edge technology and opportunites for teachers to experience work placement in industries.
Views were divided on the worth of the Teach for Australia program in the promotion of STEM, though CaSPA was able to advise the forum that it is crucial program to assist remote schools in having approriately trained teachers in many STEM areas.
While the focus of the Forum was on School-Industry partnership, CaSPA was able to report on the worrying trend of teachers having to work "out of field" in taking STEM classes in areas such as Maths and Science. We also presented the growing difficulty for schools to get their high performing Maths teachers to take on the role of leadership of the Maths Faculties.
CaSPA Board Member Paul Rijken has prepared a submission on this area in conjunction with those in his local community and input from the CaSPA Board. It can be viewed below:
Response by Catholic Secondary Principals [CaSPA]
There is a considered opinion that if the Commonwealth government invests into STEM now and into the future that this directly linked to greater and sustained productivity.
We believe that a strategy needs to be considered in terms of government's vision, industry's vision and our nation's aspiration of building our cultural capital towards technologies and the new sciences.
This strategy needs to be underpinned by a process of incentivize universalize and formalize
All stake holders whether they are students, parents, schools, tertiary institutions, industry, and businesses should see benefit of this vision and direction through incentives (elaborate below).
All initiatives which are considered should be universalized in training and education
All initiatives which are considered should be formalized in practical ways for implementation.
In no particular order, here are some recommendations:
1. Subsidize and create dedicated courses in STEM at TAFE and Universities
2. STEM needs to be integrated across all courses in both secondary and tertiary fields (i.e. Cert II in Childcare should have STEM, how important is it to have STEM in Early Learning)
3. A dedicated program in STEM should be introduced in the National Curriculum and make it compulsory. (Languages are compulsory why not STEM)
4. Industry needs to be incentivized to engage with pre-university sectors in a formal way and provide opportunities for mentoring and workplace learning opportunities
5. Commonwealth needs to look at providing tax incentives for businesses prepared to be involved in number 4 above
6. PISA and TIMSS could be used as longitudinal studies into the impact of STEM learning especially into Year 8 (TIMSS effect from primary) and Year 10 (PISA effect of middle schooling)
7. Perhaps a national measure such as NAPLAN for STEM based on PISA and TIMSS could be considered with families and students on the basis of progress and rewarded with incentives Unbonded and Bonded scholarships for those wishing to follow STEM pathways at school
8. Governments as a result of a skill shortages have funded VET training and developed a skills shortage list maybe a similar list needs to be created for the professional STEM employment sector
9. A Government organized body such as a "Future Council" to be established to report directly on the future of the nation regarding the economic requirement to prepare a society for the STEM jobs of the future their work to be evidenced based
10. Governments have over time disbanded programs such as the CSIRO schools program, Investigating Science Education etc perhaps this needs to be revisited and new programs established to promote STEM in schools.
11. There used to be a Science program for primary schools called "Labs on Legs" as primary schools do not have specialized lab programs, a mobile lab comes to a school for a week to promote science etc. This has long disappeared but a similar awareness of STEM oriented activities need to be made available for primary schools to allow students to engage with STEM from an early age.
12. Innovations, technology and pathways into STEM need to be promoted with families as they have an important influence on the decisions that students make at a very early age
13. There are a range of programs at both a state and national level that need to be more actively promoted such as F1 Racing, Robocup, Subs in Schools, Defence Industry Partnership Programs and Concept2Creation. These programs provide rich STEM learning with an incentive for students to match their learning and innovation through a competition with other students.
14. STEM learning requires it to be positioned within real life scenarios and contribute to student and social outcomes
15. Active recruitment of a far greater number of "STEM Natives" to undertake teacher training
16. Attention to teacher pre service training particularly for those intending to take on primary teaching to no only desmystify STEM, but encourage a confidence in these learinging areas in teachers that hopefully will flow through to students
17. Incentives for those taking on leadership of STEM learning areas in schools [industry could assist by providing financial help or "in kind" assistance to schools in their communities]
18. Extend the concept of Teaching Australia to recognise that "Gen Y" embrace a multi career working life. At the moment the entry to teaching is still based on the premise of completing antiquated pre service courses at Universities. There should be other means to identify and qualify those who wish to come to teaching of STEM later in life
19. Active promotion of the following in schools:
20. Recognise Coding as a legitimate LOTE
21. Review the relative worth of VET subjects in the assessment of ATAR
22. Special emphasis on promoting girls and women in STEM - very low female participation in technology and science - incentives recommended
23. Tackle systemic sexism in these areas eg women in medicine in specialities such as surgery, urology, research ( refer to the work of Prof Michelle Simmons)
24. Up skilling of Teachers needs investment of resources to gain long term outcomes
25. Recommend Task Force to advise and lead implementation of strategies across the country
26. Curriculum acceleration STEM streams supported across the country