A strong science workforce starts at school

In response to the changes announced today in the Government’s Mid Year Economic and Fiscal Outlook 2011-2012, Science & Technology Australia President Professor Michael Holland said, science is wealth creating and a contributor to the Australian economy so it is important to have a strong workforce and this begins with education.

“Any measure which impacts on a healthy flow of science graduates is short-sighted.

“Particularly regrettable is the effect the measures will have on indigenous students and those from lower socio-economic backgrounds.

“Over the next decade Australia will not have enough scientists to meet demand and skills shortages in this area will impact on Australia’s ability to drive productivity and compete internationally.

“Every effort must be made to attract and retain talented people to science and maths.  The pipeline must be healthy starting at primary school where the wonderment of science can and should fill every classroom – and continue so as to attract and retain science teachers.”

“If Australia wants well-trained science teachers, more students choosing science and a scientifically literate community, then we must put our best foot forward and this includes supporting students who wish to study science at university.

“Science & Technology Australia look forward to working with Professor Ian Chubb to develop new means for further lifting student participation rates in maths and science”, Professor Holland concluded.


One thought on “A strong science workforce starts at school”

  1. If it is correct to state that ‘Australia will not have enough scientists to meet demand’, then surely salaries will rise, making science and maths a more attractive option, and thereby stimulating an increase in supply to meet demand. Encouraging students to do science in the early years of school is all well and good (and even desirable), but it doesn’t take them long to realise that in general, science is a reliable route to an insecure and poorly paid future.

    Pegging one’s hopes solely (or even predominantly) on the revelation of ‘the wonderment of science’ in the primary school classroom to stock a country’s scientific workforce, beggars belief; it is a doomed strategy (except for the few who would choose science anyway) and ignores reality. It also suggests the STA is mis-informed about the mix of motivations that drive students when choosing a career. One only has to observe the long queues of applicants at the medical schools throughout the country (many of whom these days are science graduates). Yet, medicine has no program to engage students in the ‘wonderment’ of medicine from childhood. From whence then does it gain its popularity? A good income is one good bet, with status attached.

    Part of the responsibility of government in this regard, is in NOT setting the salaries of scientists who are directly funded by its own mechanisms (fellowships, university positions) to such low levels that discourage for many the serious consideration of science as a career.


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