“Everyone talks about (STEM), but nobody wants to do anything”
– John Loughran, Education Dean, Monash University
That my fellow blog readers, is becoming a recurring theme in this space. Last year the Chief Scientist of Australia, Professor Ian Chubb emphasised the need to “build a stronger [and] more competitive Australia.” Since then, the Abbott government have committed $12million in funding to improve focus on STEM across schools, also setting up the Commonwealth Science Council.
But how is this being delivered on the ground in schools and universities across the country?
This exact question is playing on the minds of education thought leaders at Monash University with the education faculty planning to head a consortium of universities, government departments and technology companies to form a national institute with a goal to improve science, technology, engineering and maths teaching. The team has targeted $15 million as the amount needed to guarantee the institute for at least five years. So I guess the strategy here is to tackle the issue from the foundation of teaching in an attempt to engage students? Enhancing teacher knowledge and skills can develop the STEM research and increase industry knowledge, but this is not the only plan of attack in the mix.
Cisco Launches 5 Year Investment Program
“The reason Cisco is here is that government won’t fix this alone, nor will the education system. Industry could do more and has to do more”
– Ken Boal, Vice-President and Commonwealth Science Council member, Cisco Australia and New Zealand
Computer networking giant Cisco will launch a five year Australian investment program valued up to $31 million in a bid to increase the pool of talent available with skills in science, technology, engineering and mathematics – pretty great, right?
This has been proposed as a solution to the lack of technology innovation in Australia and will see a training program rolled out across Australia. Broadened curriculums at 117 Australian Universities, TAFEs and secondary schools, and the introduction of subjects such as cyber security, cloud and the so-called “internet of things” are just some of the aspects we can expect from Cisco’s involvements. Chief executive of peak technology industry body, the Australian Information Industry Association, Suzanne Campbell praised Cisco’s new program as a “significant commitment” to Australia’s economy. “It’s not a fly-by-night thing, designed for a single day. This is a five-year commitment, and it’s an exciting one,” she said.
Ms Campbell said STEM skills were the “cornerstone of our economy”, yet the quality of teaching and student performance had proven inadequate in Australia, which is reflected with Monash’s action in response to the issue.
So what now? We have visionaries and a plan to see a resolution rolled out but will the final result actually be what we anticipate? Will we see an inspiration and empowerment of STEM educators to improve teaching quality? Will these plans increase student engagement with STEM education and career pathways?
The next conference in this series, Improving STEM Education & Skills Outcomes will take place in Melbourne this October.