Australia’s education system rewards students for poor performance in maths and science, Chief Scientist Dr Alan Finkel told the Australian Science Teachers Association national conference at the beginning of July.
“Wherever I look at the education system, I see incentives to lower our expectations,” he said.
“Why study maths at the advanced level if your ATAR will be higher if you stick with intermediate? Why study maths or science at all, if you can get into your chosen university course without it, because there are no prerequisites to get in the way? Students ask these questions of career counsellors every day.”
Plans for the next three years
Dr Finkel is currently working on an online guide to STEM teaching tools, which will complement the STEM Program Index already published by the Chief Scientist’s office. He said the resource would take the form of a Tripadvisor-style portal, where teachers could post and search detailed reviews of different STEM teaching tools.
He also has plans for an aspirational awards program for schools that improve their maths and science teaching. “I want to see recognition for schools that commit to getting better, regardless of where they start,” he said.
Science and maths in Australian secondary schools
Last week the Office of the Chief Scientist released a datasheet on science and maths in secondary schools, highlighting declining figures in student performance and participation in STEM subjects.
The next conference in the Improving STEM Education series takes place in Sydney in March 2017. Attend for practical strategies, in-depth case studies and interactive sessions you can take back to the classroom.