When Australian Education Ministers signed up to the Melbourne Declaration on Educational Goals for Young Australians in 2008, they identified literacy, numeracy and knowledge of key disciplines as the cornerstone of schooling for young Australians.
They also recognised that schooling should support the development of skills in cross-disciplinary, critical and creative thinking, problem solving and digital technologies, which are essential in all 21st century occupations.
These objectives lie at the core of the national Science, Technology, Engineering and Mathematics (STEM) school education strategy.
The Chief Scientist’s report Science, Technology, Engineering and Mathematics: Australia’s Future, has provided fresh momentum for a national focus on STEM education.
The Chief Scientist’s report highlighted the trends that all education systems are grappling with – the performance of Australian students against international benchmarks has stalled or declined.
Reversing the trends in STEM performance will take time and effort across the community. Building young people’s engagement in STEM is bigger than schools and what happens in the classroom.
Education systems alone cannot overcome the pervading cultural norm that it is acceptable to be ‘bad at maths’ or ‘not a numbers person’.
There are many factors that affect student engagement in STEM. Underlying this are the views of the broader community – and parents in particular – about the relevance of STEM, and the approach to the teaching and learning of STEM from the early years and continuing throughout schooling.
The purpose of the strategy is to build on a range of reforms and activities already underway.
Fixed vs Growth
Dr Dweck (A Stanford University Professor) discovered that children who believed that their intelligence, skill or talent could be developed were far more motivated to learn.
Confident children embrace challenges, persist when facing difficulties and learn from feedback. These are all hallmarks of the ‘Growth Mindset’, which leads to higher levels of achievement and personal empowerment.
Dr Dweck also identifies the increase of the ‘fixed mindset’ as children progress past Year 3 of their schooling. This is a mindset generated by the belief that intelligence and talents are fixed, resulting in a tendency to want to look intelligent, avoid challenges (and making mistakes) and ignore negative feedback.
The NSW Department of Education are taking the following directions to ensure the delivery of quality STEM education for all students:
• Raising expectations and enhancing the quality of student learning in STEM
• Fostering quality teaching and leadership in STEM
• Illustrating innovative ways of delivering STEM education
Actively engaging students in authentic and challenging STEM learning experiences, creating learning environments that foster innovation and creativity is fundamental to the success of STEM education in schools.
The NSW Department of Education has initiated a number of STEM projects during 2015 and 2016:
- Stage 3 Integrated STEM Project
Breaking down the disciplines-
- Science is about understanding how things work.
- Technology includes tools, techniques and materials that enable greater efficiency or effectiveness in product and process development and application. Non-digital and digital technologies are included.
- Engineering is about making things that work.
- Maths includes determining, deconstructing, estimating, calculating, modelling, abstracting, predicting and correcting.