Support for Science, Technology, Engineering and Mathematics (STEM)

The Australian Government regards high-quality science, technology, engineering and mathematics (STEM) education as critically important for our current and future productivity, as well as for informed personal decision making and effective community, national and global citizenship.

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. In support of this, the Government is providing significant funding for initiatives to improve the teaching and learning of STEM in early learning and schools announced in the 2020-21 Budget:

  • $9.6 million to extend and evaluate the Primary Connections, Science by Doing and reSolve: Mathematics by Inquiry science programs to support student learning, including resources for teachers.
  • $5.7 million to support the Foundation to Year Two expansion of the Early Learning STEM Australia (ELSA) program to improve STEM literacy and numeracy in Australian schools.
  • $4.8 million to extend and evaluate the STEM Professionals in Schools program by partnering teachers with STEM professionals to enhance STEM teaching practices and deliver engaging STEM education in Australian schools.
  • $4.4 million to extend and evaluate the Let’s Count program to help develop the early numeracy skills of disadvantaged children.
  • $2.8 million to extend and evaluate the Little Scientists program to help early learning educators to build their skills and confidence in STEM, so that they can lead fun and inquiry-based learning.

The Government is also providing:

  • $1.5 million to support the delivery of Artificial Intelligence in Schools, under the Australian Technology and Science Growth Plan, as part of the $29.9 million Artificial Intelligence Capability Fund measure.
  • $9.5 million to strengthen the capacity of teachers across Australia to teach mathematics and numeracy through online professional development courses for teachers of Foundation to Year 10 students, supported by face-to-face professional learning, and a repository of teaching and learning resources through an online Mathematics Hub.
  • $2.35 million for the extension and expansion of Curious Minds (STEM Summer Schools for Girls) over four years under the Women’s Economic Security Package.

Evaluation of National Innovation and Science Agenda (NISA) schools and early years initiatives

The department commissioned dandolopartners to evaluate the NISA-funded school and early years initiatives individually and as a whole. The evaluation is based on desktop analysis drawing upon existing individual initiative evaluations and contractual and performance data, available information on other STEM initiatives and consultation with a wide range of stakeholders. Stakeholders consulted included state and territory officials, non-government education representatives, principal, teacher and parent associations, ACARA, AITSL, ESA, the Department of Industry, Innovation and Science, the Office of the Chief Scientist, the Australian Industry Group, the Australian Academy of Science and CSIRO as well as online focus groups of teachers and principals and all current procurement-contracted or grant-funded providers. The evaluation found that, in general, these initiatives were working well, successfully reaching target audiences and increasing their confidence and engagement in STEM.

School STEM initiatives

Online Teaching and Learning Resources to Support Mathematics and Numeracy (Mathematics MOOCs)

The online teaching and learning resources for mathematics and numeracy initiative will provide support for teachers on the Foundation to Year 10 Australian Curriculum: Mathematics and the Numeracy general capability. It will deliver:

  • Mathematics Massive Open Online Courses (MOOCs) providing free online professional development for teachers, supported by face-to-face professional learning; and
  • an online Mathematics Hub providing a curated collection of evidence-based, curriculum-aligned teaching and learning resources for teachers and school leaders, as well as resources for students and families.
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Supporting Artificial Intelligence in Schools

The Supporting Artificial Intelligence in Schools initiative is supporting & the development of a range of curriculum resources to assist with the delivery of AI and emerging technologies content and the associated general capabilities in the Australian Curriculum.

The key elements are:

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Curious Minds (Summer Schools for STEM Students)

Curious Minds targets high-potential female students in Years 9 and 10 through a series of hands-on summer camps, supported by a mentoring program and follow-up winter camps. Delivered by the Australian Mathematics Trust, Curious Minds  aims to ignite girls' passion and participation in STEM, particularly those who have had limited opportunities because of where they live and/or their socio-economic backgrounds.

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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. The program brokers and supports flexible partnerships between STEM professionals from industry, government and tertiary institutions, and primary and secondary teachers to engage students in quality learning in the STEM disciplines.

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Digital Technologies Massive Open Online Courses

The University of Adelaide's Digital Technologies Massive Open Online Courses (MOOCs) provide free professional learning for teachers on the Australian Curriculum: Digital Technologies, and free access to the latest digital technologies equipment through a National Lending Library.

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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.

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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.

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Australian Digital Technologies Challenges and Dive into Code

Australian Digital Technologies Challenges are a series of free online teaching and learning activities available free to all Australian students in Years 3 to 8.

The DT Challenges are online and unplugged classroom resources aligned to the Australian Curriculum: Digital Technologies. There are a mix of Dive into Code mini DT Challenges and full DT Challenges that provide 1-2 and 4-5 weeks of lesson activities. The resources teach scratch, blockly, python, javascript, arduino and the micro:bit. The online challenges provide automated marking and a teacher dashboard.

There are also some short fun Dive into Code activities that introduce simple coding concept for students.

The Australian Computing Academy (ACA) at the University of Sydney is delivering this initiative, which includes delivering 1 and 2 day professional learning workshops to primary and secondary teachers across Australia.

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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.

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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.

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reSolve: Maths by Inquiry

reSolve: Maths 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: Maths by Inquiry resources target students from Foundation to Year 10 and are freely available to all Australian teachers.

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Mathematics Teaching Practice Guide

The project, Growing Mathematically – A Teacher’s Manual for Learning Progressions in Multiplicative Thinking is being led by the Australian Association of Mathematics Teachers and is developing and piloting a Mathematics Teaching Practice Guide (the Guide). Growing Mathematically is an initiative that supports and promotes the use of learning progressions, formative assessment and targeted teaching as effective teaching strategies for mathematics.

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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.

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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.

The Principals as STEM Leaders team is seeking Expressions of Interest from principals to participate in the research project. Principals as STEM Leaders will work with collaborating principals within pairs of school clusters. Principals must be committed to enhancing STEM teaching and learning in their schools and participating in the PL program. Principals interested in participating in the Principals as STEM Leaders project, please contact pasl.project@utas.edu.au.

More information about Principals as STEM Leaders Project is available on the University of Tasmania's Principals as STEM Leaders (PASL) website.

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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.

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Early Learning STEM Initiatives

The Australian Government offers a number of early learning STEM initiatives.  Further information can be found on the Early Learning Science, Technology, Engineering and Mathematics (STEM) page of this website.

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. The Australian Government is the lead for two of the twelve national collaborative actions under the Strategy, as outlined below.

Action A: STEM Partnerships Forum

In 2017, the STEM Partnerships Forum was established as one of the key national collaborative actions under the National STEM School Education Strategy 2016-2026. Chaired by Dr Alan Finkel AO, Australia's Chief Scientist, the Forum brought 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.

The Forum Chair delivered a final report to Education Council in April 2018.

The report contains recommendations for industry, education and government and focuses 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.

Education Council endorsed a formal response to the STEM Partnerships Forum report in June 2019. The response thanked the Forum members for their work and noted that the report informed the development of the National School Reform Agreement between the Australian Government and all states and territories. It also provided details about actions at the national and state and territory level that address the Forum's recommendations.

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Action L: Sharing and synthesising research and evaluation findings

In June 2019, Education Council endorsed a report on the national collaborative action: Share and synthesise research and evaluation findings to identify successful STEM interventions and inform school practice.

The report analysed initiatives in terms of various characteristics, including the type of intervention, targeted group and scale, and included evaluation findings where available. A key finding was that, although many of the initiatives had evaluations planned, there was very little robust data on which to assess the outcomes of the initiatives. The report recommended that the exercise be repeated in 2-3 years to gather more information from future evaluations.

The related detailed program summaries illustrate the wide variety of STEM initiatives across Australia.

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National STEM School Education Resources Toolkit

The Australian Government Department of Education commissioned Dandolopartners International to develop the National STEM School Education Resources Toolkit in response to a STEM Partnerships Forum recommendation.

The aim of the National STEM School Education Resources Toolkit is to assist schools and industry to establish new STEM initiatives, form school-industry partnerships, and evaluate existing and future STEM initiatives.

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Coding Across the Curriculum Evaluation Report

The Coding Across the Curriculum initiative was funded by the Australian Government to support teachers implementing the Australian Curriculum: Digital Technologies in classrooms. The initiative aimed to produce a suite of resources that document, support, assist and promote a pedagogical approach to the teaching of digital technologies, including coding, across the different year levels in Australian schools. The key outcome was the creation of the Digital Technologies Hub.

In 2018, the department engaged dandolopartners Pty Ltd to conduct an evaluation of the Coding Across the Curriculum initiative.

The evaluation report found that teachers value the Digital Technologies Hub as a source of new ideas and lesson plans to support implementation of the Digital Technologies curriculum, and that the resources on the Hub are high quality, easy to use, adaptable to a range of settings, clear and engaging.

For a full copy of the Coding Across the Curriculum Evaluation Report please email the STEM in schools inbox at steminschools@dese.gov.au and an electronic version of the report will be forwarded to you.