The national peak body for science, technology, engineering, and mathematics (STEM) has warned that Australia’s future is at risk as performance declines amongst Australian maths and science students.
Professor Emma Johnston, President of Science & Technology Australia, says that without a strong foundation for the next generation, Australia will find it harder and more expensive to compete globally.
She said a report released by the Australian Research Alliance for Children and Youth (ARACY) on Sunday has highlighted the need to act swiftly, being the latest in a series of reports that calls for action to address the falling proficiency rates of maths and science in Australian students.
“It’s universally accepted that STEM skills will shape our future, and without a population that is confident and versed in the basics of science and technology, we will fall behind,” Professor Johnston said.
“Australia’s STEM education led the world before our performance began to decline in 2006.
“Since then, we have increased funding but performance has continued to slide to a point where we are falling to the middle of the pack.”
Professor Johnston said the sector had been aware of the issues facing STEM education for some time, and there were some important steps that could be taken to address them.
“Its important that we examine minimum qualification requirements for maths and science teachers, as we have many professionals outside the subject area coming in and teaching STEM subjects,” she said.
“We should also be encouraging science and maths graduates to consider a career in teaching, and facilitating better cooperation and consistency between state and territory curriculums.”
Professor Johnston said that the decline in performance was being mirrored by a decline in enrolments in advanced science and mathematics courses.
“Without passionate, skilled and well supported STEM teachers, we won’t inspire young Australians to consider work in these fields,” she said.
“Without talented new recruits for our STEM sector, all aspects of our economy, society and community will be worse off for it – Australia will fall behind.”
For more on enrolments in advanced mathematics, read the Discipline profile of the mathematical sciences by the Australian Mathematical Science Institute.
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