16 October 2017

Scotch, STEM and Australia's Employment Future

The Science, Technology, Engineering and Mathematics (STEM) movement is neither a new phenomenon nor one that is unique to Australia, however, the momentum behind STEM based teaching and learning is gaining an audience that can no longer be ignored. The Chief Scientist, Professor Ian Chubb, in 2014, identified in his report STEM: Australia's Future the need for Australia to provide opportunities for Australian students to engage with STEM based programmes at school with a view to take STEM studies at a tertiary level.

STEM disciplines provide education to enact analytical, critical, quantitative and reasoning skills and creativity that are valuable in many organisations and to society. STEM related skills - independent thought, quantitative reasoning, problem solving skills, ability to ask critical questions, forming and testing hypotheses - are increasingly adaptive in the modern world.

The situation in Australia is alarming when considering the statistics surrounding the STEM debate. Tony Peake, the National Leader - Government, from Price Waterhouse Coopers (PWC) commented that 40% of currently non-digitalised occupations will soon become digital. To compare internationally, in Singapore 52% of graduates leave university with a STEM based qualification, in Australia it is 16%.

From a schools perspective this is identified by a significant reduction in the number of students who take STEM based subjects at a high level. Across Australia participation in the more challenging mathematics and Science courses has steadily been falling.

We need to identify and encourage students who want to take a STEM based learning path and equally encourage them to believe that they can. It is important to be clear to our boys that STEM based learning has no boundaries, it is not aimed at one particular student, equally VET, WACE or IB students could choose to follow a path that will lead them on a STEM based career.

In an exciting opportunity in 2015, Scotch College Year 10 students will be completing a 10 week course at the Harry Perkins Institute of Medical Research which will engage our students in the emerging world of bioinformatics. It is these types of partnerships with industry that will inspire and engage our boys with professionals that previously have not been possible.

Promoting STEM based education is also not about devaluing other disciplines, rather it is about embracing the pedagogy that sees our teachers collaborate across disciplines to provide delivery of an education that mirrors and indeed prepares our boys for a far more realistic world which they will face.

Australia's future growth can only be based on skills knowledge and innovation. The future of Australia is based in high value production, which shall require a highly skilled workforce, and many of those occupations will be born from STEM related learning. These skills are critically important to the future of the Australian economy as we shift from a resource economy to a knowledge and production based economy.

Scotch College will be looking to partner tertiary institutions, industry and the community to explore a co-ordinated approach to STEM learning to ensure we are providing our boys with a multitude of options to be part of this fast growing aspect of Australia's community, yet also that from a social perspective we are equipping Australia with the learners we need for a prosperous Australia.

Mr Peter Allen

Director of Teaching and Learning