Education

Increasing student engagement, aspiration and achievement in STEM education

12 May 2015, by Informa Australia

The 2nd Annual STEM Education Conference will be taking place on the 27-28 July, and to mark the important themes of this conference, we spoke to Education Director of Schools Connect, Michelle Hamilton about the latest programs that will encourage kids to move into STEM education. Hamilton identifies that some of the most effective programs include school-business partnerships as they bring “new thinking to old issues”. 

Written by Michelle Hamilton, Education Director, Schools Connect. 

Schools Connect Australia believes that education is everyone’s business. As an independent NFP
organisation, we connect schools in disadvantaged communities with businesses and facilitate high
functioning partnerships between them.

There are several ways that school-business partnerships can make a difference in Australian
education. One of the powerful ways that we can improve learning outcomes for students is through
engaging ‘real-world’ connections between classrooms and the community. In regards to STEM,
these connections can bring cutting edge innovations, techniques and ways of thinking into the
everyday learning experiences of students. The right ‘real-world’ connections can increase student
engagement, aspiration, achievement, and ultimately this can begin to address the challenges we
face in STEM, and education more broadly, across the country.

STEM-ed-kidsThere are any number of exciting and inspiring experiences being offered to schools with the aim of
raising the profile of STEM and encouraging young Australians to turn the tide on the apathy of
recent years and take on the challenges of STEM for the future. One factor that we believe to be
important is building school capacity, in particular, empowering teachers to increase their own
content knowledge and capabilities so they can drive and sustain change in their schools and
communities. The support of school leadership is imperative for teachers to engage in this pursuit.

Through collaborations with STEM businesses, universities and training institutions, government
agencies and NFPs, schools can not only provide inspiring and impactful experiences for students but
they can also inspire, develop and extend teachers. Without the element of building school capacity,
especially through working with teachers, there is a chance that all the hard work of partners may
remain at the periphery of the education system and struggle to impact the core challenges of
improving student take up and achievement in STEM.

Supporting teachers can be a strategic way of engaging with schools and may help to ensure that
developments in STEM education are not only exciting for the students engaged, but that they are
long-term, sustainable, embedded and build the capacity of our schools to deliver high quality STEM
learning to all students in all year levels. Teachers need to be engaged, excited and confident with
this curriculum if we expect the same from students.

SCA’s flagship model, Business Class, is used to facilitate long-term (three years plus) partnerships
between schools and businesses. The partnerships are driven by the needs of the school and address
a range of issues across the four key areas of; leadership and governance, curriculum, employability
and enterprise and wider issues. Businesses and schools collaborate to bring new thinking to old
challenges in schools and this involves exciting projects for students but it also ensures that the
capacity of the staff members and the organisation is developed in order to support and sustain the
innovations. Although Business Class operates well beyond the field of STEM, we believe that good
partnerships in STEM focus on empowering schools and teachers as well as inspiring students.

The 2nd STEM Education Conference will be taking place on the  27-28 July, and will convene at the Swissotel in Sydney. This event will cover topics including the status quo of STEM education in Australia, and will look at how government and schools will be developing STEM over the next decade. Register and view the speaker faculty here: http://bit.ly/1CSlrpK 

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