When Australian Education Ministers signed up to the Melbourne Declaration on Educational Goals for Young Australians in 2008, they identified literacy and numeracy and knowledge of key disciplines as the cornerstone of schooling for young Australians. They also recognised that schooling should support the development of skills in cross- disciplinary, critical and creative thinking, problem solving and digital technologies, which are essential in all 21st century occupations. These objectives lie at the core of the national science, technology, engineering and mathematics (STEM) school education strategy.
All governments are investing in improving STEM education. There is significant activity underway across the country in schools and education systems, by industry and universities, to lift student engagement and attainment in STEM and to support teachers to improve student outcomes. The Chief Scientist’s report Science, Technology, Engineering and Mathematics: Australia’s Future, however, has provided fresh momentum for a national focus on STEM education. The Chief Scientist’s report highlighted the trends that all education systems are grappling with – the performance of Australian students against international benchmarks has stalled or declined as has participation in senior secondary science and
advanced maths. Reversing the trends in STEM performance will take time and effort across the community. Building young people’s engagement in STEM is bigger than schools and what happens in the classroom. Education systems alone cannot overcome the pervading cultural norm that it is acceptable to be ‘bad at maths’ or ‘not a numbers person’. There are many factors that affect student engagement in STEM. Underlying this are the views of the broader community – and parents in particular – about the relevance of STEM, and the approach to the teaching and learning of STEM from the early years and continuing throughout schooling. Connected to this is the way industry articulates the importance of STEM related-skills that extend beyond traditional STEM occupations. University admissions policies also have a strong influence on student choices in the senior secondary years. The purpose of the strategy is to build on a range of reforms and activities already underway. It aims to better coordinate and target this effort and sharpen the focus on the key areas where collaborative action will deliver improvements to STEM education.
“A RENEWED NATIONAL FOCUS ON
STEM IN SCHOOL EDUCATION IS
CRITICAL TO ENSURING THAT ALL
YOUNG AUSTRALIANS ARE EQUIPPED
WITH THE NECESSARY STEM SKILLS
AND KNOWLEDGE THAT THEY
WILL NEED TO SUCCEED.”
NATIONAL STEM SCHOOL EDUCATION STRATEGY