STEM skill research

The various components of STEM – science, technology, engineering and mathematics – are being unevenly taught in primary schools, leading to a deficit in these necessary skills among school leavers.
A report from the Australian Industry Group (Ai Group) Lifting our Science, Technology, Engineering and Mathematics (STEM) Skills claims: “STEM skills are essential for the future economic and social well-being for the nation.”
The Ai Group report quoted recent international research which suggests 75 per cent of the fastest growing occupations require STEM skills and knowledge. It went on to say that young people in schools and universities lack these vital skills. “Australia’s participation in STEM skills at secondary school and university are unacceptably low,” the report revealed.
“Australian education at all levels and in all sectors requires a major re‐think leading to a transformation in STEM to increase participation in STEM‐related education and training.”
Professor David Clarke of the University of Melbourne said Australia is currently under-performing in these disciplines, compared to other countries. He said science-related content is unevenly taught in primary school. “The generalist nature of primary teacher education courses make it difficult to allocate substantial time to science and mathematics,” said Clarke.
If Australia is to design a national STEM policy, it needs to focus on “relevance, engagement, connectedness and inquiry-based learning”, said Clarke.
“The policy might include the prioritised recruitment of teachers in STEM-related areas.” He said additional resources or funding should also be allocated to recruitment as well as training of teachers.
He said these priorities had long been advocated as characteristic of the reform agenda in science and mathematics education.
He added that maths and science in junior secondary school are frequently taught by teachers who have neither expertise nor training in mathematics and science. “It needs to be recognised that even ‘science’ is differently interpreted as a knowledge domain in different countries.”
“The prevalence of out-of-field teaching in mathematics and science certainly confirms a shortage of suitably trained teachers in those areas,” he said.
The 2012 federal budget called for a new post to be instituted within the Office of the Chief Scientist to promote greater awareness and to boost investment across all levels of education, including greater work placements and industry engagement at the university level.
Recommendations in the report included calls for the introduction of semester‐long work‐related placements or projects for 50 per cent of all incoming STEM-based undergraduates, as recommended by the Office of the Chief Scientist. It also said that universities and industry will collaborate on business‐related research projects, especially with PhD students.
Professor Jennelle Kyd, acting vice-chancellor of Swinburne University of Technology, said that greater investment in teaching STEM subjects is needed to make certain “…Australia has the high-tech skills it needs to ensure its future economic success.”
The Ai Group said the industry needs to become more engaged in the promotion of STEM skills at all levels of education and training. A number of strategies must be urgently introduced across various sectors to lift participation in STEM- related activities.The Ai Group said the industry needs to become more engaged in the promotion of STEM skills at all levels of education and training. A number of strategies must be urgently introduced across various sectors to lift participation in STEM-related activities.

Please login to view content or register for a 4 week FREE Trial.

Membership Login