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STEM Education Paramount for Teachers in Australia
등록일 : 2017-06-20 17:12 | 최종 승인 : 2017-06-20 17:12
Althusser Wright

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Photo source: Pamela L.Gay via Wikimedia Commons

Teachers were urged to get educated on STEM (Science, Technology, Engineering, and Mathematics) by the House of Representatives Standing Committee on Employment, Education and Training in Australia this week.  The committee produced what is called the Inquiry into innovation and creativity: workforce for the new economy report which is pointed at mainly bettering educators' STEM teaching skills.

The House of Reps committee put forth 38 recommendations to the federal government to handle the workforce of the future.  The plan is made to ensure a digital ready workforce which will be supported through STEM throughout all of Australia's education system.

The report details a plan for the government to work together with facilities of higher education to better increase quality and the quantity of STEM grads, while at the same time providing better teacher training.  This will allow for a higher level of quality knowledge to be passed down to children.

The committee would like a STEM Reference Panel to guide and push strategies to strengthen STEM for every level of education.  They also want to supply CSIRO (Commonwealth Scientific and Industrial Research Organisation) as well as the Australian Nuclear Science and Technology Organisation a mandate to develop a pilot STEM role model program for teachers in the country.

An additional suggestion is for the government to allocate some funding into groups with teachers that are qualified to teach STEM, in tandem with deciphering where non-STEM trained teachers are having to teach STEM.  The committee would like to see the non-qualified STEM teachers phased out from teaching the four subjects over a five year period.

Furthermore, when a teacher is not accredited to teach STEM, the committee is urging the development of online credentialing and an incentive based system for any teacher to enhance his or her STEM knowledge.

The committee is also pushing for universities to have a closer watch on secondary and primary schools confirm training is in place for future teachers.

The report shows there is concern for participation in STEM at the secondary school level.  There has been a steady decline over the last 20 years with female students in particular.  The committee is also equally alarmed about the country's students declining mathematical literacy levels.

Technology companies with a presence in Australia have had the same sentiment for some years now.  Infosys, an IT outsourcing company said in a 2016 report that 50 percent of the young Australians they have contact with believe their education did not prepare them for what to expect from working life.

The committee's proposed solution for this is to appoint a STEM specialist at each school and bring back the requirement for students to study mathematics to receive an Australian Tertiary Admission Rank (ATAR).  On the other hand, outgoing Intel Australia managing director Kate Burleigh once said, that the ATAR process is hindering the nation's challenge of getting more students involved in STEM, being less confident in mathematics may cause a student's university admission rank to fall below their true capabilities for their chosen career.

Photo source: Argonne National Laboratory via Wikimedia Commons

As far as universities are concerned, the report asks for STEM courses to include at least a business or entrepreneurship unit, while at the same time having non-STEM degrees touch on statistics, business, entrepreneurial themes, and technology.

Likewise, the committee is asking that universities let academics take unpaid leave to pursue the commercialization of their research.

Andrew Laming, committee chair says the inquiry and report comes at a time when there is a nascent but promising innovation ecosystem in Australia.The Liberal National Party member says the quantity and quality of university-level STEM graduates depend's on STEM education being of high quality.  He's also worried about long-term consequences in what he calls the "decay curve" when it comes to a student's STEM adoption.

Photo source: Senior Airman John Linzmeier via Wikimedia Commons

The stumbling block as the committee points out is the lack of adequate incentives for teachers to specialize in STEM subjects.  The report states out how 40 percent of Grade 7 students in math classes around Australia are being taught by someone other than a math teacher.  All the while in some regional and obscure areas there are simply no qualified math teachers in many schools.

The committee's take on this says "This evidence suggests a disconnect between the employment realities of being a teacher and expectations about the ability of non-specialist teachers to adequately teach STEM subjects in schools.  It paints a picture of a system that is out of balance and exhibiting signs of stress because non-specialist teachers are unable to keep pace with the need for STEM teaching in schools."

Mitch Fifield, Minister for Arts and Education has said Australia needs to have creativity at the heart of the STEM agenda if it wants to be a real culture of innovation.  Fifield along with several others in his field are pushing for the letter A to be inserted into to STEM.  He said "[We need] to put an A into STEM: We need to start talking about STEAM." as quoted by the National Association for Visual Arts in its submission to the committee, saying "because if we want to have a culture of innovation, a culture of creativity feeds directly into that."

In light of these statements the committee said it is keen on the idea that governments have to start thinking about the education system as an ecosystem that begins early on in primary school.

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