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What’s the problem?
High-achieving students receive insufficient STEM support:
- The percentage of high-performing maths students among Australian 15-years-olds declined from 20% in 2003 to 10% in 2018.
In science, the percentage of high performers decreased from 15% in 2006 to 9% in 2018.
- Fewer disadvantaged Australian students are high performers than a decade ago.
What strategies work?
The learning needs of high-achieving STEM students often differ dramatically from those of other students. While providing tailored experiences in a single classroom is challenging, it is important that high-achieving STEM students are given opportunities to reach their potential. High-performing students benefit from:
- Adjustments to the pace, breadth and depth of learning.
- Content that is more complex, abstract or varied than normal.
- High degrees of independence.
- Emphasis on higher-order thinking, problem-solving, and critical and creative thinking.
- Opportunities to address authentic, real-world problems.
- Extra-curricular STEM enrichment activities.
- Exposure to STEM professionals as mentors or role models.
Want to know more?
- PISA 2018: Reporting Australia’s Results. Volume I Student Performance
- Optimising STEM Industry-school partnerships: Inspiring Australia's next generation - Issues Paper, December 2017
- Inquiry into the Education of Gifted and Talented Students report is a wide-ranging resource on the challenges and opportunities of educating gifted students, including in STEM fields.
Examples of STEM education initiatives for high-achieving students
- QUT Vice-Chancellor’s STEM Camps: A five-day research-based camp for high-achieving Year 11 students run by the Queensland University of Technology.
Case study: Australian Science Olympiads
The Australian Science Olympiads are a competitive national extension program for high-achieving secondary science students. The program begins with a set of optional exams for Year 10 and 11 science students. Around 100 top-performing students from the exams are invited to attend a two-week science summer school. Here students learn advanced science that is well beyond the high school curriculum. Students benefit from stretching the limits of their skills and knowledge and from meeting and working with like-minded peers. “It opened my eyes to the opportunities in science and pushed me to my limits,” said one student. Each year the top 17 students from the summer school are invited to represent Australia at the International Science Olympiads. The Australian program is run by Australian Science Innovations.