The Australian Government has committed an extra $12 million to restore the focus, and increase student uptake of, science, technology, engineering and mathematics (STEM) subjects in primary and secondary schools across the country.
This builds on the $5 million allocated in the 2014 15 Budget for the Primary Connections and Science by Doing programmes.
Restoring the focus on STEM subjects is about ensuring Australia’s young adults are equipped with the necessary skills for the economy of the future.
The Restoring the focus on STEM in schools initiative will provide funding for four key elements:
- Providing innovative mathematics curriculum resources for primary and secondary school students, focusing on inquiry-led teaching.
- Supporting the introduction of computer coding across different year levels in Australian schools leading to greater exposure to computational thinking, and, ultimately, expanding the pool of ICT-skilled workers.
- An innovative approach to education based on the United States ‘Pathways in Technology Early College High School’ (P-TECH) model.
- Summer schools for STEM students, to increase the number of girls and disadvantaged students attending — including Indigenous students and those from regional and remote areas.
Encouraging school students to study STEM subjects and showing them some of the great careers built on science, engineering, maths and technology will also help secure the nation’s future. Starting this interest at the school level will help increase the number of students taking up STEM subjects in higher education and in their careers and help keep Australia competitive internationally in these important fields.
Mathematics by Inquiry
The Mathematics by Inquiry project ($7.4 million) will result in a suite of innovative, high quality mathematics teaching and learning resources for Foundation to Year 10 school students, teacher and school leaders. These will be incorporate contemporary mathematics pedagogies aimed at transforming the teaching and learning of mathematics.
A tender process was conducted to select a service provider for Mathematics by Inquiry. On 20 October 2015, Senator the Hon Simon Birmingham, Minister for Education and Training, announced that the Australian Academy of Science, working with the Australian Association of Mathematics Teachers, had been selected to do this work.
Prior to conducting the tender, the department undertook some preliminary investigations and discussions with a range of mathematics education stakeholders. Two desktop reviews of mathematics pedagogical approaches and learning resources were prepared for the department and a Mathematics by Inquiry Roundtable of mathematics education stakeholders was held on 7 May 2015.
You can read the reviews and summary of the roundtable key issues at:
- Desktop Review of Mathematics School Education Pedagogical Approaches and Learning Resources (Australian Association of Mathematics Teachers);
- Desktop Review of Mathematics School Education Pedagogical Approaches and Learning Resources (Australian Academy of Science);
- Key findings from the Mathematics by Inquiry policy roundtable, held 7 May 2015.
Following recommendations arising from the desktop reviews and the roundtable above, the department commissioned the following initiatives:
- Education Services Australia (ESA) has been engaged to undertake a curation and annotation of Australian Curriculum: Mathematics resources listed on the curriculum resource portal Scootle to describe these resources more specifically and to give teachers a better sense of which resources can support their needs;
- The Australian Curriculum, Assessment and Reporting Authority (ACARA) has been engaged to develop annotated work samples to support the Australian Curriculum: Mathematics proficiencies, focusing on problem-solving and reasoning.
Coding across the curriculum
The Coding across the curriculum programme will support the introduction of computer coding across different year levels in Australian schools. Importantly, this initiative will further support algorithmic thinking in the Australian Curriculum: Technologies and other key learning areas – including mathematics. The programme will lead to greater exposure to computational thinking, and, ultimately, expand the pool of ICT-skilled workers in Australia.
Funding of $3.5 million over four years (2014–15 to 2017–18) has been allocated to Coding across the Curriculum. As an initial step, the University of Adelaide was engaged to undertake a mapping exercise of existing teaching and learning resources with regard to the Australian Curriculum: Technologies and identify gaps and opportunities. You can read ‘The Coding Across the Curriculum Resource Review and Report” here.
In response to this report, the Department of Education and Training is working with states and territories to develop resources for teachers that will assist implementation the Australian Curriculum: Digital Technologies. This includes the development of a web-portal by Education Services Australia.
The web portal will include annotated teaching and learning resources and lesson plans that are mapped against the Australian Curriculum and will also include case studies of best practice and information about Coding careers.
Pathway in Technology Early College High School (P-TECH) pilot
The Australian Government has provided $500,000 funding to support the establishment of a STEM focused P-TECH pilot to test and adapt this innovative US model of education-industry collaboration in the Australian context.
The P-TECH model is based on a partnership between education and industry that is focused on supporting young people to make a successful transition from school to further education, training and work.
The P-TECH pilot will utilise existing Australian qualifications and actively engage industry in the learning and development of young people. Industry involvement, collaboration and mentoring will create direct links between what students are learning in school and the requirements of the modern workplace. The pilot will provide secondary students with an industry supported pathway to a STEM related diploma, advanced diploma or associate degree. Students will then have the option to continue their study at the tertiary level or pursue employment in a STEM related field, including job opportunities with industry partners.
The Australian and Victorian governments have agreed to establish P-TECH pilot sites at Newcomb Secondary College in Geelong and Federation College in Ballarat. IBM has committed to leading the establishment of the pilot site in Ballarat where it has existing operations and strong connections with the community.
For more information on the P-TECH pilot, visit http://www.education.gov.au/p-tech-pilot
Summer schools for STEM students
Summer schools for STEM students ($0.6 million) will provide opportunities for high‑achieving school students to attend national science, mathematics and informatics summer schools followed by 5 months mentoring and a second residential school. The project is targeted at students from underrepresented groups such as female, indigenous and those from disadvantaged backgrounds.
The summer schools will be managed by the Australian Mathematics Trust with the Australian Science Innovations which run the mathematics, informatics and science Olympiad programmes. Participants in the Summer schools for STEM students are selected predominantly through the existing Olympiad activities and competitions.
The first summer school will take place in December 2015. Using additional funding of $0.25 million from the Department of the Prime Minister and Cabinet, this will focus solely on female students.