How our future leaders, and our country, can benefit from STEM.
STEM is an investment in the future of our country with a primary focus to achieve a better Australia.
STEM was introduced as a recognition for a need to nurture the development of skills in cross-disciplinary, innovative thinking, problem solving, and digital technologies. These skills are vital for survival in the 21st century.
The STEM strategy encompasses four critical elements:
- technological sciences
According to a paper by the Office of the Chief Scientist, the key objective of the STEM Strategy is to fully utilise Australia’s capacity in STEM to secure social, cultural and economic prosperity for all Australians, while positioning Australia to advantage in a changing world.
The future of our country will benefit from STEM as the government and educational sectors strive to develop a generation of thought leaders.
According to a report produced for the World Economic Forum in 2016 , less than half the number of Australians surveyed believe that their educational background failed to prepare them enough for their working life. The same report published a quote by Klaus Schwab, Founder and Executive Chairman of the World Economic Forum;
“Today, we are on the cusp of a Fourth Industrial Revolution. Developments in genetics, Artificial Intelligence, robotics, nanotechnology, 3D printing and biotechnology, to name just a few, are all building on and amplifying one another. This will lay the foundation for a revolution more comprehensive and all-encompassing than anything we have ever seen.”
STEM is set to revolutionise our educational offerings. To arm leaders of tomorrow with the skills they need to be innovative, collaborative, environmentally-focused, and scientifically aware of their actions.
What is being done to nurture STEM careers in Australia?
In 2015, The National STEM School Strategy was endorsed by the Australian Education Ministers as a response to a report by the Office of the Chief Scientist two years prior. STEM is now introduced to the Australia Curriculum via the learning areas of Science, Technologies and Mathematics. It is also included through general capabilities, in particular Numeracy, Information and Communication Technology (ICT) capability, and Critical and Creative Thinking.
Engineering is addressed in Design and Technologies through a dedicated content description, which concentrates on engineering principles and systems. It is delivered through the curriculum via Science, Digital Technologies and Mathematics. Engineering generally presents a context for STEM learning.
The Digital Technologies Curriculum, which has been introduced to schools nationwide, sees every student taught the fundamentals of computer science, data science and coding. The curriculum is compulsory from the start of school through to year eight (except for NSW who are yet to confirm a date when the curriculum will be mandatory).
Individually, and collaboratively, this curriculum exposes students to:
- generating, managing and evaluating sustainable and innovative digital solutions to meet and redefine both current and future requirements
- utilising computational thinking, and the key concepts of abstraction; data collection, representation and interpretation; specification, algorithms and implementation to generate digital solutions
- confident use of digital systems to efficiently and effectively automate the transformation of data into information and to creatively communicate ideas in a variety of settings
- applying protocols and legal practices that support safe, ethical and respectful communications and collaboration with known and unknown audiences
- applying systems thinking to monitor, analyse, predict and shape the interactions within and between information systems and the impact of these systems on individuals, societies, economies and environments.
According to The Education Council, STEM in general is part of balanced program of learning. The STEM strategy improves students’ problem solving and critical analysis skills and can increase interest in STEM-related fields post schooling.
Surveys undertaken by participating schools highlight some of the advantages teachers see with the STEM curriculum. When asked about the confidence of students in STEM and their ability to transfer knowledge, understanding and skill across subjects and contexts, the responses were clear;
“Many students identified that they now had a better understanding of how mathematics, science and technologies go hand-in-hand in the workplace and the types of careers that require these skills”.
And, when questioned about the connection between classroom learning in STEM and their future work and learning opportunities, students changed their views that the only STEM-related fields were of a science nature. In fact, survey results showed a clearer understanding of more STEM-related careers like landscape architecture, manufacturing, project management, defence, finance, and marketing.
As an example, those interested in a career working with animals discovered the importance of mathematics and science in the process, and how they were linked.
How to capitalise on the STEM Strategy in schools and higher education?
The reality is that STEM strategy needs plenty of support to produce intended future scientists, tech experts, engineers, defence personnel, and mathematicians.
Teachers cannot take the same, outdated approach to digital education as was seen in past. Computer technology has moved far beyond spreadsheets and word processing.
To capitalise on the optimal learning of these modern subjects, it is imperative that pre-service and in-service teachers are fully equipped to prepare students for their STEM careers. As it stands, sadly the majority of teachers and educators have restricted knowledge on the discipline.
Educational sectors must provide teachers the time, resources, and support needed to actively engage with the curriculum and enhance their professional development skills.
Where can you find help?
For help and assistance check out some of the federally-funded programs, like the following, which present online and in-person resources and assistance:
For informative, on-trend conferences, check out Informa’s STEM-related event summits in 2018:
STEM Education Conference
This year’s STEM Education Conference will feature hands-on workshops, panels and presentations from inspiring educators, leading researchers, as well as industry and education changemakers.
STEM in Defence Summit
With the release of the Defence Industry Skilling and STEM Strategy in mid-2018, this year’s summit will address the core issue of translating student engagement into recruitment and retention, whilst acknowledging the unique needs and skills of our defence industries – shipbuilding, armed forces, cybersecurity, aerospace, emerging technologies and more.
AFR Higher Education Summit
The Australian Financial Review’s Higher Education Summit will bring together the sectors’ most esteemed and exciting thought-leaders and disruptors to discuss the future of higher education in Australia.
“Emerging technologies in Artificial Intelligence, deep neural networking, and machine learning enable us to reimagine the possibilities of human creativity, innovation and productivity. As technology continues its rise, absorbing our mundane and routinized tasks, we must understand our calling to something greater – to be better, something more. This is the promise of our great human potential – that we are more than the sum of our knowledge of the past: it is precisely our learnability, on the things we don’t know, that will open a new future for all of us.”
Dr. Vishal Sikka, Chief Executive Officer, Infosys
The Australian Government, and our country’s leading researchers, have identified STEM as a priority for the future of Australia. Jobs, and the prosperity of our country, are reliant on the foundation of the skills and knowledge to nurture our talent and educate our young on the way of tomorrow and our modern world technologies.
STEM in schools is only the start. The strategy needs to be adopted and built upon by higher education, the community, and in business and industry.
We need the backing to meet those challenges which have not yet been set. As, there is no fate but what we make.
- Australian Government, Office of Chief Scientist: Science, Technology, Engineering and Mathematics in the National Interest: A Strategic Approach July 2013
- Infosys: Amplifying Human Potential: Education and Skills for the Fourth Industrial Revolution
- Australian Curriculum: Technologies, Digital Technologies – Aims
- The Education Council: National STEM School Education Strategy, December 2015