A New South Wales Government plan to spend $13.5 million recruiting 500 specialist STEM teachers has been welcomed by the peak body for science and technology.
Science & Technology Australia says the plan aligns with its own submission into the Federal Government’s review of Initial Teacher Education.
STA’s submission highlighted the scale of the challenge of Australian kids being taught science and maths by out-of-field teachers amid chronic shortages of STEM teachers.
Almost a quarter of Year 8 students are being taught maths by teachers who did not major in maths or maths education, the latest Trends in International Mathematics and Science Study (TIMSS) data finds.
One in ten Year 8 students are being taught science by teachers who have no qualifications in science or science education.
Science & Technology Australia’s submission sets out a bold plan to train STEM teachers, incentivise students to study STEM subjects, and ensure Australia’s children get the science and maths education they need to prosper in the future workforce.
“We are dealing with a serious national shortage in specialist science and maths teachers in our schools,” said STA Chief Executive Officer Misha Schubert.
“This announcement from the New South Wales Government is a welcome step in the right direction.”
“We should also train more home-grown talent, as well as recruiting highly-talented teachers from overseas to fill these vacancies, just as the university sector does.”
“After the COVID job losses of the past year, we know there are also highly trained STEM professionals who have lost jobs in research.”
“That group of talented people could be encouraged to think about a move into teaching to fill these STEM teacher shortages.”
Modelling from Universities Australia suggests 17,000 jobs have been lost from the research sector during the pandemic – and among them will be highly-skilled STEM experts who could be inspiring teachers for school students.
“More needs to be done to address this Australia-wide issue. We need bold thinking and a national plan to fix the shortfall and ensure kids have access to specialist teachers to give them the skills they need for emerging growth industries such as AI.”
“Australia needs to do more to value its teachers. Teaching is one of the most exciting and inspiring things you can do – it’s a profession that can change the world.”
“A national plan to fix teacher shortages and ensure our kids are being taught by specialist maths and science teachers will engage young people, nurture more brilliant minds, and future proof society for the challenges that science can solve.”
Key recommendations from STA’s submission include:
- Develop a national plan through the Education Council to elevate the status of teaching as a profession;
- Launch a national campaign to dispel myths around teaching as a career and encourage more people from underrepresented groups to train to be teachers;
- Expand programs which have a track record of supporting teachers to teach STEM content with more confidence;
- Give current specialist STEM teachers the opportunity to work across multiple schools;
- Stipends for high-achieving students in STEM fields to try education;
- A specialist STEM-specific program to reach and retrain STEM-qualified professionals and researchers as school teachers.
The full submission is available here.