The Government is committed to improving the STEM skills of young Australians to ensure that they have the skills they need to live and work in a globalised world.
As part of the $1.1 billion National Innovation and Science Agenda, the Australian Government has allocated over $64 million to fund early learning and school STEM initiatives under the Inspiring all Australians in Digital Literacy and STEM measure. This includes two measures: Inspiring STEM Literacy and Embracing the Digital Age.
Early Learning STEM initiatives
Under the Inspiring STEM Literacy measure of the National Innovation and Science Agenda, the Government is investing $14 million over four years from 2016–17 to promote positive learning experiences for children aged three to five years. This will include the development of early learning STEM resources and training for educators, as well as more opportunities for families and children to take part in fun and exciting STEM activities.
Early Learning STEM Australia (ELSA) pilot
The Government is investing $6 million over three years from 2016–17 for play-based apps that inspire curiosity and interest in STEM among preschool-aged children.
The University of Canberra will design, develop, and implement the ELSA pilot, which includes digital learning experiences rich in STEM concepts, delivered on tablet devices. The ELSA pilot will begin in 2018.
Children at the 100 pilot preschools will have access to four play-based ELSA apps, aligned with the Early Years Learning Framework. The apps encourage learning beyond the screen through active, child-centred experiences that introduce STEM practices, such as exploring location, patterns and problem solving.
An educator app and a families' app will further support preschoolers in the ELSA pilot sites as they learn about STEM.
The Government is providing $4 million over four years from 2016–17 to The Smith Family to expand the Let's Count early years mathematics program. This funding will enable online delivery of the program, as well as a parent mobile app. Let's Count supports parents and early years’ educators to develop the maths skills of their kids, so that they start school ready to learn.
The Government is providing $4 million over three years from 2016–17 to Froebel Australia Limited to extend the reach of the Little Scientists program. Little Scientists helps early learning educators to build their skills and confidence in understanding STEM ideas and concepts, so that they can lead fun and inquiry-based learning activities, using everyday materials with preschool children.
Early Learning STEM Research
The government engaged Victoria University in 2016 to look at the quality and range of STEM education apps available for early learning in preschools. Apps were assessed on how they met the learning outcomes as stated in the Early Years Learning Framework.
The research found that despite a large number of STEM apps being on the market, only a few are useful to educators to encourage STEM in early learning. This research has been used to inform the development of the ELSA apps.
School STEM initiatives
The Government is providing significant funding to support a range of education projects to improve STEM outcomes for school students. This includes:
- $51 million under the Embracing the Digital Age measure of the National Innovation and Science Agenda
- $12 million under the Restoring the Focus on STEM measure of the Industry Innovation and Competitiveness Agenda
- $5 million under the Australian Maths and Science Participation Program.
The following projects have been funded under the Embracing the Digital Age measure of the National Innovation and Science Agenda:
STEM Professionals in Schools
STEM Professionals in Schools partners teachers with STEM professionals to enhance STEM teaching practices and deliver engaging STEM education in Australian schools. The initiative is delivered by the CSIRO and was previously known as Scientists and Mathematicians in Schools.
Digital Technologies Massive Open Online Courses
The University of Adelaide’s Digital Technologies Massive Open Online Courses (MOOCs) provide free professional development for teachers on the Australian Curriculum: Digital Technologies, and free access to the latest digital technologies equipment through a National Lending Library.
Digital Technologies in Focus
Digital Technologies in Focus provides support for around 160 disadvantaged schools to assist them in implementing the Australian Curriculum: Digital Technologies. The Australian Curriculum, Assessment and Reporting Authority (ACARA) has been engaged to provide specialist digital technologies and ICT Curriculum Officers in these schools.
Digital Literacy School Grants
The Digital Literacy School Grants initiative is providing funding to 114 projects that support innovative ways of implementing the Australian Curriculum: Digital Technologies in schools. As part of the initiative, two competitive grant rounds were conducted in 2016–17 and 2017–18. 54 applicants received grants in Round 1 and 60 received grants in Round 2.
Australian Digital Technologies Challenges & Dive into Code
Australian Digital Technologies Challenges are a series of free online teaching and learning activities for students in Years 5 to 8 that are aligned to the Australian Curriculum: Digital Technologies. The Australian Computing Academy (ACA) at the University of Sydney is delivering this initiative, which includes professional learning workshops for primary and secondary teachers across Australia.
Also delivered by the ACA, Dive into Code (previously known as Cracking the Code) will offer a suite of fun and engaging coding activities and challenges for students in Years 4 to 12.
Principals as STEM Leaders
The Principals as STEM Leaders research project will develop and pilot new approaches to support principals to provide high quality STEM leadership in schools. Delivered by the University of Tasmania, Principals as STEM Leaders will involve around 200 primary and secondary schools in the government and non-government sectors, covering rural, regional, remote and metropolitan areas. A suite of high quality professional learning and mentoring resources developed through the project will be made available for all Australian schools to use at the end of the project, alongside a research report detailing key findings.
digIT (ICT Summer Schools)
digIT is a series of summer schools that target Year 9 and 10 students from groups that are under-represented in STEM and engage them in digital technologies and related careers. Delivered by the Australian Mathematics Trust, digIT gives students the chance to attend a digital technology-based summer school, accompanied by five months of mentoring and a follow-up residential school.
The following projects have been funded under the Restoring the Focus on STEM measure of the Industry, Innovation and Competitiveness Agenda:
reSolve: Mathematics by Inquiry
reSolve: Mathematics by Inquiry provides teaching and professional learning resources that support teaching mathematics through inquiry-based methods and help students learn mathematics in fun and innovative ways. Delivered by the Australian Academy of Science, reSolve: Mathematics by Inquiry resources target students from Foundation to Year 10 and are freely available to all Australian teachers.
Digital Technologies Hub
The Digital Technologies Hub is an online resource portal that supports implementation of the Australian Curriculum: Digital Technologies across different year levels for teachers, students and families. Developed by Education Services Australia, the Digital Technologies Hub includes curriculum linked, quality assured learning resources and activities that will equip students and teachers with the skills and capabilities they need to flourish in a digital world. The Digital Technologies Hub is part of the Coding Across the Curriculum initiative.
Curious Minds (Summer Schools for STEM Students)
Curious Minds targets high-achieving female students in Years 9 and 10 through a series of hands-on summer schools. Delivered by the Australian Mathematics Trust, Curious Minds combines residential camps and a mentoring program with the aim of igniting girls’ passion and participation in STEM.
The following projects have been funded under the Australian Maths and Science Participation Program:
Science by Doing
Science by Doing provides comprehensive online science resources that are freely available to Australian teachers and students in Years 7 to 10. Delivered by the Australian Academy of Science, Science by Doing includes curriculum units and professional learning modules and offers a practical way of implementing the Australian Curriculum: Science.
Primary Connections: Linking science with literacy
Primary Connections: Linking science with literacy provides primary teachers with comprehensive curriculum and professional learning resources that link the teaching of science with the teaching of literacy. Delivered by the Australian Academy of Science, Primary Connections focuses on developing primary students’ knowledge, understanding and skills in both science and literacy, through an inquiry-based approach.
Science ASSIST Advisory Service
Science ASSIST Advisory Service is a national online advisory service that is freely available for science teachers and laboratory technicians. Delivered by the Australian Science Teachers Association, the Advisory Service provides advice on school science laboratory safety and procedures, including fact sheets, guidelines and a Q&A service.
National STEM School Education Strategy 2016–2026
In 2015, all Australian education ministers agreed to the National STEM School Education Strategy 2016–2026, which focuses on foundation skills, developing mathematical, scientific and digital literacy, and promoting problem solving, critical analysis and creative thinking skills. The strategy aims to coordinate current activities, and improve STEM education.
In 2017, the STEM Partnerships Forum was established, chaired by Dr Alan Finkel AO, Australia’s Chief Scientist. The Forum brings together leaders from industry and education to facilitate a more strategic approach to school-based partnerships with businesses and industry across Australia in order to develop the engagement, aspiration, capability and attainment of students in STEM.
Since it was established, the Forum has focused on three key areas of work:
- industry’s role in supporting teachers and teacher professional development
- awareness of the range of careers available for people with STEM skills and knowledge required to take advantage of these opportunities
- understanding and measuring the outcomes and impacts of partnerships.
In December 2017, the Forum released an issues paper, which formed the basis for targeted consultations in early 2018.
A final report containing recommendations for industry, education and government will be delivered to COAG Education Council in April 2018.