The Scientists and Mathematicians in Schools (SMiS) program is a major science, technology, engineering and mathematics (STEM) initiative funded by the department in conjunction with the Commonwealth Scientific and Industrial Research Organisation (CSIRO). It brokers and supports flexible partnerships between STEM professionals and primary and secondary schools across Australia. This involves volunteer science, mathematics, and technology professionals working with teachers to engage students in quality learning within these disciplines.
Since its inception as Scientists in Schools in 2007, the program has expanded to include mathematicians in schools and, more recently, information and communications technology (ICT) professionals. As of March 2016, the total number of active and assigned partnerships was 1915, approximately 20 per cent of all schools. The cumulative total since 2007 is 5171 partnerships.
In addition to its significant national reach, SMiS facilitates partnerships between individual STEM professionals and teachers that are ongoing, flexible and able to be tailored to local contexts.
The Australian Government has committed a further $10 million over four years through the STEM Partnerships with Schools initiative. This funding will expand and improve the program to ensure students and teachers in both primary and secondary schools:
- understand how STEM is applied in the real world
- are introduced to emerging STEM innovations and potential career paths
- are provided with student mentoring opportunities
- participate in STEM learning activities that match industry expectations and aspirations.
SMiS will also be guided by the outcomes of the National STEM School Education Strategy, a 10-year strategy endorsed by all education ministers in December 2015. The strategy aims to ensure all students finish school with strong foundational knowledge in STEM and related skills, and that students are inspired to take on more challenging STEM subjects.
Image (top): Dr Sophie Parks bringing STEM subjects to life in Mr Soreca’s science classroom at Wadalba Community School.