Industry-school partnerships the key to STEM growth, says Government
Jun 01, 2016 | News | by The Learning Press staff
The Coalition has devoted $4.6 million to boosting school maths and science learning through mentor partnerships with business.
Selected schools around the country will trial the program, known as Pathways in Technology Early College High School (P-TECH), in connecting teenage students with young mentors already working in STEM-based careers.
The program is designed to deliver better results in maths and science subjects while equipping students with skills that employers seek, so making them more employable.
Prime minister Malcolm Turnbull this week met students at McCarthy Catholic College in Emu Plains, western Sydney who will be partnered with young PwC employees.
McCarthy is one 12 schools selected for the expansion of the program, which was first trialled at two schools in Geelong and Ballarat last year under the Abbott Government.
Mr Turnbull said: “There will be kids that are not particularly inspired by their studies - they're smart kids, they're hard-working kids, but it doesn't seem terribly relevant to them at age 15.
"And then they meet ... a young person from PwC who talks about their story, what they studied, and suddenly a light goes on and that 15-year-old boy or girl is inspired."
PwC says senior students who are involved in the P-TECH pilot at McCarthy will be “on a pathway to achieve two qualifications: their secondary school certificate and a STEM-related diploma, advanced diploma or associate degree”.
The company’s national skills leader Sara Caplan said: “The nature and type of work we do in Australia and the region is changing and we must ensure the students of today have the right skills and training for the job needs of the future.
“What makes the P-TECH model so successful in other parts of the world is that it is a locally driven, collaborative and hands-on learning program. It is based on innovative curriculum and innovative approaches to learning, and industry mentoring and support.
“PwC can help students understand the relevance of their skills to real employment experiences and to identify STEM related career pathways and we’re very excited to work with the students and staff at McCarthy Catholic College to drive this pilot forward.”
The Australian Education Union argues that highly-qualified specialist teachers are the key to stimulating interest among schoolchildren about STEM subjects, saying in a statement: “Students with a strong academic background in STEM subjects are more likely to be able to teach them well.”
The latest Programme for International Student Assessment data from 2012 shows 32 per cent of Australian secondary students are taught in schools where the principals say a lack of qualified maths teachers hinders learning - compared to an OECD average of 17 per cent.
The picture is similar for science, with 25 per cent of students in schools where the principal says a lack of qualified science teachers hinders learning, against an OECD average of 17 per cent.
The Office of the Chief Scientist supports the call for better-qualified STEM teaching graduates, arguing in its latest STEM strategy report: “An individual’s knowledge and academic background in STEM is strongly linked to their capacity to teach it.
“Teaching is an intellectual activity that requires academic capacity. The evidence suggests that increasing academic standards at entry also helps to attract strong candidates and raises the prestige of the profession in the community.”
The McCarthy Catholic College P-TECH pilot will commence in January 2017.