NATIONAL STEM SCHOOL EDUCATION STRATEGY

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111215 20209NATIONAL STEM SCHOOLEDUCATION STRATEGYA COM PREHEN SI V E PL A N FO R SCIENCE, TECHNOLOGY,ENGINEERING A N D M ATHEM AT IC S EDUC AT ION IN AUS T R A LIADEC EMB E R 2015

This strategy was endorsed by Australian Education Ministerson 11 December 2015.2www.educationcouncil.edu.auNational STEM School Education Strategy, 2016 – 2026

National STEM school educationstrategy 2016 – 2026IntroductionWhen Australian Education Ministers signed upto the Melbourne Declaration on Educational Goalsfor Young Australians in 2008, they identifiedliteracy and numeracy and knowledge of keydisciplines as the cornerstone of schooling for youngAustralians. They also recognised that schoolingshould support the development of skills in crossdisciplinary, critical and creative thinking, problemsolving and digital technologies, which are essentialin all 21st century occupations.These objectives lie at the core of the nationalscience, technology, engineering and mathematics(STEM) school education strategy.All governments are investing in improving STEMeducation. There is significant activity underwayacross the country in schools and educationsystems, by industry and universities, to lift studentengagement and attainment in STEM and tosupport teachers to improve student outcomes.The Chief Scientist’s report Science, Technology,Engineering and Mathematics: Australia’s Future,however, has provided fresh momentum for anational focus on STEM education.The Chief Scientist’s report highlighted the trendsthat all education systems are grappling with –the performance of Australian students againstinternational benchmarks has stalled or declined ashas participation in senior secondary science andadvanced maths.There are many factors that affect studentengagement in STEM. Underlying this are theviews of the broader community – and parents inparticular – about the relevance of STEM, and theapproach to the teaching and learning of STEMfrom the early years and continuing throughoutschooling. Connected to this is the way industryarticulates the importance of STEM related-skillsthat extend beyond traditional STEM occupations.University admissions policies also have a stronginfluence on student choices in the seniorsecondary years.The purpose of the strategy is to build on a rangeof reforms and activities already underway. Itaims to better coordinate and target this effortand sharpen the focus on the key areas wherecollaborative action will deliver improvementsto STEM education.A RENEWED NATIONAL FOCUS ONSTEM IN SCHOOL EDUCATION ISCRITICAL TO ENSURING THAT ALLYOUNG AUSTRALIANS ARE EQUIPPEDWITH THE NECESSARY STEM SKILLSAND KNOWLEDGE THAT THEYWILL NEED TO SUCCEED.Reversing the trends in STEM performance willtake time and effort across the community. Buildingyoung people’s engagement in STEM is biggerthan schools and what happens in the classroom.Education systems alone cannot overcome thepervading cultural norm that it is acceptable to be‘bad at maths’ or ‘not a numbers person’.National STEM School Education Strategy, 2016 – 2026www.educationcouncil.edu.au3

THE CASE FOR CHANGEOver the next five years,employment is predicted toincrease in professional, scientificand technical services by 14 percent and in health care by almost20 per cent. The Australian Bureauof Statistics has estimated thatsome STEM-related jobs, such as ICTprofessionals and engineers, havegrown at about 1.5 times the rateof other jobs in recent years. 1International research shows that buildingSTEM capacity across the population iscritical in helping to support innovationand productivity regardless of occupationor industry. Consistent with this research,industry surveys show that STEM literacyis increasingly becoming part of the corecapabilities that Australian employers need.PricewaterhouseCoopers has estimatedthat changing 1 per cent of Australia’sworkforce into STEM-related roles wouldadd 57.4 billion to GDP. 2Yet Australian data shows that inequitiescurrently exist in STEM. Girls, students fromlow socio-economic status backgrounds,Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander students,and students from non-metropolitan areas canbe less likely to engage with STEM educationand therefore have a higher risk of notdeveloping high capabilities in STEM-relatedskills. These groups are more likely to miss outon the opportunities STEM-related occupationscan offer.This combines with an overall trend awayfrom higher level STEM subject choices andthe failure to keep pace with the highestperforming countries on international testsof maths and science.A renewed national focus on STEM in schooleducation is critical to ensuring that all youngAustralians are equipped with the necessarySTEM skills and knowledge that they will needto succeed.1. Australian Government, Industry Employment Projections 2015 Report; ABS Perspectives on Education and Training: Australianqualifications in STEM, 2010-11, Cat. 4250.0.55.005.2. PricewaterhouseCoopers (PWC), A Smart Move: future-proofing Australia’s workforce by growing skills in STEM (2015).4www.educationcouncil.edu.auNational STEM School Education Strategy, 2016 – 2026

STEM learning in schoolsSTEM education is a term used to refer collectivelyto the teaching of the disciplines within its umbrella– science, technology, engineering and mathematics– and also to a cross-disciplinary approach toteaching that increases student interest in STEMrelated fields and improves students’ problemsolving and critical analysis skills.STEM sits within a broader foundational knowledgebase and the teaching of STEM is a part, albeitimportant, of a balanced program of learning.The national strategy is focused on action that liftsfoundational skills in STEM learning areas, developsmathematical, scientific and technological literacy,and promotes the development of the 21st centuryskills of problem solving, critical analysis and creativethinking. It recognises the importance of a focus onSTEM in the early years and maintaining this focusthroughout schooling.GoalsGoal 1: Ensure all studentsfinish school with strongfoundational knowledge inSTEM and related skillsToday’s students need to acquire core subjectknowledge as well as the skills of collaboration,critical thinking, creativity and problem solving– and STEM education has a crucial role inachieving this.School systems have a responsibility to ensurethat all young people have a fundamental level ofSTEM literacy that enables them to engage with,and succeed in, the world beyond the school gate.Building foundational STEM knowledge needs tostart from early childhood and continue throughoutprimary and secondary schooling.Goal 2: Ensure that studentsare inspired to take on morechallenging STEM subjectsWhile the primary aim of the national strategyis to support all young people to become moreSTEM capable, a supplementary goal is to increaseparticipation in challenging STEM subjects in thesenior secondary years.School systems have an important role to play,in partnership with the tertiary education sectorand industry, to encourage students to develophigher level STEM capabilities, to build aspirationfor STEM participation at tertiary levels and forSTEM-related careers.Schools have the opportunity to foster and nurtureyoung people’s curiosity towards STEM, and can usethis to develop deeper engagement and learning.This requires renewed focus on achievement in theSTEM ‘building blocks’, especially mathematics, aswell as effective cross-disciplinary curriculum andpedagogical approaches that build student interestand performance in STEM education.National STEM School Education Strategy, 2016 – 2026www.educationcouncil.edu.au5

Five areas for national actionSchools form a critical part of a broader STEMeducation ecosystem which includes pre-schooling,vocational education and training, higher educationand workplace training and development. Thestrategy has identified five key areas for nationalaction through which school education has thegreatest leverage.There is significant activity underwayacross the country – within schools, schoolsystems, universities and business – toimprove STEM education. The national STEMschool education strategy seeks to build onthis activity and provides a framework forcollaborative effort.1. Increasing student STEM ability, engagement,participation and aspirationThe actions identified in this strategy focus on areaswhere national collaboration is most beneficial,drawing together some of the national curriculumand teaching reforms to drive improvements inSTEM education.2. Increasing teacher capacity and STEMteaching quality3. Supporting STEM education opportunitieswithin school systems4. Facilitating effective partnerships with tertiaryeducation providers, business and industry5. Building a strong evidence baseThe strategy supports a long-term change agenda.Some national actions are well advanced or can beimplemented in the short term, but in setting thebar high, others are more aspirational and will taketime to be realised.In identifying areas for national collaborative effortand jurisdictional priority actions, it is recognisedthat jurisdictions have different starting points andthat there will continue to be differences in strategicpriorities across states and territories.While the actions are largely focused on teachingand learning within the school environment,building and maintaining student interest andaspiration in STEM cannot be achieved by schoolsalone. Parents and the broader community, industryand the tertiary education sector are key STEMeducation partners.6www.educationcouncil.edu.auNational STEM School Education Strategy, 2016 – 2026

GOALSGoal 2:Ensure all students finishschool with strongfoundational knowledgein STEM and related skillsEnsure that studentsare inspired to takeon more challengingSTEM subjectsERDEGOALTWOEVOLIDESC H OGOALONEST UNCEHACNTTEGoal 1:PA RSTNERSHIP1. IncreasingstudentSTEM ability,engagement,participationand aspiration5. Building astrongevidence base2. Increasingteachercapacityand STEMteachingquality4. Facilitating3. SupportingeffectiveSTEMpartnershipseducationwith tertiaryopportunitieseducationwithin schoolproviders,systemsbusiness andindustryFIVE ARE A S FOR N ATION AL AC TIONNational STEM School Education Strategy, 2016 – 2026www.educationcouncil.edu.au7

1. Increasing studentSTEM ability, engagement,participation and aspirationStudents’ early interest in STEM is not translatingto ongoing engagement and participation in STEMeducation. While evidence shows students have anatural interest in science, they don’t necessarilyunderstand the relevance of STEM education,particularly maths. Research shows that there isan interrelationship between student aspirationstowards STEM careers and engagement in STEMsubjects. Mathematical thinking is a fundamentalskill that underpins all STEM learning. Thesequential nature of mathematical learning meansthat students who fall off the ‘maths pathway’early can struggle to achieve sufficient levels ofmathematical literacy.National collaborative actions: Explore options for a minimum level ofnumeracy attainment for all students todemonstrate before leaving school, with a focuson proficiency levels over time.2. Increasing teacher capacityand STEM teaching qualityQuality teaching is the key to lifting studentengagement and performance in STEM education.Teachers need to be equipped with the skills andconfidence to support STEM learning. The rapidlychanging nature of technology, and the importanceof real world approaches to science education,makes this particularly challenging.Evidence suggests that some primary schoolteachers lack confidence in teaching scienceand maths, particularly where they have limitedexpertise in these content areas. While thereis significant activity already underway acrossjurisdictions to support STEM teaching, effortunder the national strategy will focus on sharingbest practice, implementing national initial teachereducation standards and efforts to attract moreSTEM graduates into the profession.National collaborative actions: Increase the recognition of the subjectload of advanced STEM subjects andencourage the uptake of advanced courses,for example, through university entrance bonuspoint schemes.–– Using coding to develop mathematicalthinking and solve real world problems.–– Addressing identified weaknesses in numeracyarising from NAPLAN performance.Jurisdictional priority actions: 8Collect and develop online exemplar teachingmodules, in partnership with universityand industry, to assist in the delivery of bestpractice STEM teaching, including a focus on,for example:Supporting a focus on STEM in early childhoodeducation to build on early curiosity forscience and technology, and the importance offoundational numeracy skills.–– Supporting the key progress points in thelearning of maths and science.Recognising the primary and middle years ascritical periods when students begin to cementtheir aspirations for, and confidence in, STEM.–– Using engineering and technologicalchallenges to provide real world contextfor projects.Supporting a focus on the development ofhigher order computational, problem solving andcreative thinking skills through the rollout of theAustralian curriculum on technologies, includinga deep engagement with coding.Encouraging the uptake of online learningmaterials, linked to classroom practice, tosupport the development of students’ problemsolving and reasoning skills which are at the coreof mathematical thinking, scientific literacy anda deep engagement with coding.www.educationcouncil.edu.au–– Delivering project-based learning for STEM–– Supporting the introduction of STEM conceptsin the preschool years. Establish a STEM professional learningexchange, in partnership with universities andindustry, to support schools and school systemsby sharing best practice and identifying areas tohelp boost teacher confidence and capacity inthe primary and secondary years, for examplein STEM subject content, data analysisand programming.National STEM School Education Strategy, 2016 – 2026

Lift the quality of initial teacher education tosupport teacher confidence and STEM contentexpertise, including through:–– implementation of agreed national programstandards, including mandatory contentrequirements in maths and science, and thenational literacy and numeracy test for initialteacher education students.–– consideration of enhancements to mandatorycontent requirements and the use of financialarrangements with the university sectorto further lift the quality of initial teachereducation over time. Work with universities to improve the pathwayfor STEM graduates into teaching, forexample, through financial incentives andinclusion of teaching pedagogy components inSTEM-related degrees linked to school/universitypartnerships.3. Supporting STEMeducation opportunitieswithin school systemsSchools and education systems need to facilitateSTEM engagement through effective curriculum,teaching approaches and assessment resources toimprove learning outcomes in the classroom. Whilethere are a wide range of curriculum resourcesavailable, effort under the national strategy willbuild on, and link to, the Australian curriculum andnational assessments to support the attainment ofcore STEM subject knowledge and the underlyingskills of problem solving and analytical thinking.National collaborative actions: Jurisdictional priority action: Continuing to support schools to access specialistteachers in maths, science and technology. Extend the national literacy and numeracycontinuums to better assist teachers to identifyand address individual student needs accordingto the expected skills and growth in studentlearning at key progress points from the earlyyears through high school, given the evidenceof the spread of student achievement withinany classroom.Develop online formative assessmenttools that help teachers collect and use dataabout individual student learning needs,which builds on the continuum and utilisesthe nationally agreed and supported onlineassessment platform.Revise the scope and extend the reach of thenational science and ICT assessments forYears 6 and 10, calibrating them against the bestinternational standards to ensure high levels ofscientific and digital literacy (jurisdictions to optin to full cohort testing).Jurisdictional priority actions: National STEM School Education Strategy, 2016 – 2026Improving the integration of statistical concepts,data analysis and problem solving skills intoschool programs, consistent with the Australiancurriculum and in recognition of the impact oftechnology and big data on the types of STEMliteracy today’s students require.Extending student performance in STEM throughinitiatives such as virtual classrooms, extensioncourses and early access to university courses.www.educationcouncil.edu.au9

4. Facilitating effectivepartnerships with tertiaryeducation providers,business and industryNational effort is required to raise communityunderstanding of the critical role STEM skills playin a knowledge based economy and the range ofcareers that require STEM capabilities. There area significant number of partnerships and programsin place that bring together schools, industryand universities to support STEM engagement.However, more needs to be done to improve thecoordination and reach of these arrangements,particularly for under-represented students,and to identify best practice.5. Building a strongevidence baseThere are multiple approaches to partnershipprograms and to the integrated and project-basedteaching of STEM that aim to improve studentaspiration, engagement and performance. Betterguidance is needed for schools and teachers todetermine which approaches work best for differentpurposes and student cohorts. Effort under thenational strategy will focus on establishing astronger data and evidence base over time to tracknational trends and improve our understanding ofwhat works in Australian contexts.National collaborative actions: National collaborative action: Establish a STEM Partnerships Forumto facilitate more efficient and effectivepartnerships between schools, industry and thetertiary education sector that support teachersand develop the aspiration and capabilities ofstudents, particularly for under-representedgroups. This may include consideration of:–– developing guidance and support materialsfor best practice models of partnerships,including mentoring and outreach activities,that are relevant, engaging and support STEMlearning outcomes.–– increasing industry involvement ineffective school-based partnerships. National reports to chart national change ina range of STEM data indicators, for example,STEM participation and attainment (includinga focus on girls, low SES, Aboriginal students),university commencements and graduateoutcomes, and employment outcomes.Share and synthesise research andevaluation findings to identify successful STEMinterventions and inform school practice.Jurisdictional priority action: Establishing a culture of evaluating programsand initiatives to help build an evidence basefor what works to improve STEM outcomesin Australian contexts and for particularsub-groups (in particular girls, low SESand Aboriginal students).–– ensuring greater alignment of initiatives toraise awareness of the importance of STEMeducation for all.–– advising on the best approach to careersadvice on the importance and relevance ofSTEM skills, particularly for primary studentsand their parents.–– facilitating greater engagement betweenindustry and STEM teachers, for example,industry work placements and programsfor pre-service teachers.Jurisdictional priority action: 10Work with the tertiary education sector toimprove communication to secondarystudents about the level of school STEM studyneeded to successfully complete STEM-relatedcourses at university and in vocational educationand training.www.educationcouncil.edu.auNational STEM School Ed

A COMPREHENSIVE PLAN FOR SCIENCE, TECHNOLOGY, ENGINEERING AND MATHEMATICS EDUCATION IN AUSTRALIA DECEMBER 2015 . 2 www.educationcouncil.edu.au National STEM School Education Strategy, 2016 – 2026 This strategy was endorsed by Australian Education Ministers on 11 December 2015. National STEM School Education Strategy, 2016 – 2026 www.educationcouncil.edu.au 3 National STEM school education .

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