Following an extensive consultation process involving 150 people attending meetings and 53 written submissions, the STEM Partnership Forum has made ten recommendations on how industry partnerships can assist with improving the delivery of STEM education in schools.
Its extensive report entitled Optimising STEM Industry School Partnerships: Inspiring Australia’s Next Generation was released by the Council of Australian Governments’ Education Council on Monday 23 April 2018.
The report identifies a number of serious STEM skills shortfalls in Australia and recommends a range of options for how industry could help improve outcomes for students, teachers and employers.
Three focus areas are identified to achieve the greatest impact in engaging young people in STEM:
- Teacher professional learning
- Awareness of how real world problems are solved through STEM skills
- Improving understanding of the outcomes and impact of STEM partnerships.
The report also offers a framework to to guide industry-school partnerships and calls for a rethink of the ATAR and its impact on student subject choice.
The overall vision of the STEM Partnership Forum is that science, technology, engineering and mathematics subjects be taught in ways that are so stimulating that students become inspired to study them further.
A key focus is the delivery of teacher professional development and creating strategic opportunities for industry to play a greater role in developing a skilled future workforce by connecting concepts taught in the classroom to practical applications.
In a forward to the report, Australia’s Chief Scientist and STEM Partnerships Forum Chair Dr Alan Finkel said employers want to help, not just by exhortation but by practical action.
“Industry can help to build the enthusiasm of students, teachers and parents by providing examples of real world problems that young people would love to solve.”
“Businesses can contribute content and context to the principals, lead teachers and academics who are developing contemporary curriculum resources. They can offer their staff to help teachers directly or indirectly, as preferred by the teachers.”
“They can work with intermediaries such as universities and TAFEs to supply contemporary content or technology that can be incorporated into teacher professional learning.”
Dr Finkel said that industry’s motivation in advancing the STEM capability of Australia’s young people is to elevate the skills and aspirations of the future workforce. He warned that this focus should not be misinterpreted as a desire to replace the broad goals of education with a narrow set of job-specific skills.
Many have welcomed the report including the Australian Academy of Science’s Education Committee Chair and former Chief Scientist Professor Ian Chubb, who said the Academy strongly supports the push for industry to play a greater and more constructive role in enhancing STEM in Australia’s education system.
The Academy backs the report’s emphasis on the importance of STEM education to help solve real-world problems, and the development of initiatives at scale.
It also welcomes the report’s recommendations to review senior secondary system and university prerequisites and develop minimal national requirements for discipline specific professional learning to maintain ongoing teacher registration.
“The Academy has been advocating for some time for the staged reintroduction of at least Year 12 mathematics subjects as prerequisites for all bachelors programs in science, engineering and commerce,” Professor Chubb said.
The report is available at www.educationcouncil.edu.au