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What’s the problem?
Remote, rural and regional students are falling behind in STEM education:
- The average 15-year-old from remote Australia is around 1.5 years behind metropolitan students in science.
- The average 15-year-old from remote Australia performs significantly below the international average in mathematics.
These results are influenced by:
Limited access to resources e.g. facilities / technology / programs compared with metropolitan students.
- Difficulties finding and retaining qualified STEM teachers.
- Fewer career and further education opportunities due to location.
- Poorer access to resources e.g. mental health and wellbeing.
- Reliance on parents and / or local networks for career advice, which may be fragmented.
What strategies work?
Given these challenges, research advises that best practice for engaging non-metropolitan students in STEM:
- Ensure that initiatives recognise, respect and are tailored to the local context.
- Create dialogue around a shared vision and sense of purpose.
- Is supported by clear communication, with consistent and manageable ways to evaluate outcomes..
- Support resilient and sustainable partnerships with local communities and the broader education system.
- Design parental engagement techniques and tools.
Want to know more?
- PISA 2018: Reporting Australia’s Results. Volume I Student Performance
- Improving Mathematics and Science Education in Rural Australia: A Practice Report describes in its introduction the challenges of regional and rural STEM education in Australia.
- The importance of place in evaluation of STEM partnerships between Universities and Schools in rural, remote and regional Australia
Below are examples of STEM education initiatives for remote, rural and regional students:
- Regioneering Roadshow: An incursion program that travels regional Australia running engineering programs for students with a focus on engagement and understanding the challenges of developing countries. Examples of some of the activities include building water filtration systems or prosthetic limbs from low-cost materials.
Case study: Shell Questacon Science Circus
The Shell Questacon Science Circus brings lively science presentations to regional towns and schools across Australia. The program’s goal is to inspire young people in regional areas to value STEM learning and career possibilities. Travelling presenters perform energetic science shows in schools and deliver teacher professional development workshops. They also run hands-on science exhibitions for the broader community. The Science Circus partners with local organisations such as businesses and non-profit organisations to enable tour programs to be tailored to local needs. 85% of participating school teachers report an increase in their students’ enthusiasm for science.