The $400 million inducement to put STEM specialists back in our classrooms
May 14, 2016 | News | by The Learning Press staff
Labor is taking on the Government over science and innovation with the launch of a $400 million plan to ensure all STEM teachers in high schools are appropriately trained.
Opposition leader Bill Shorten says the money will provide scholarships for graduates with science, technology, engineering and maths (STEM) qualifications to encourage them into teaching.
Under a Labor government, Mr Shorten says, all STEM teachers will be qualified in their relevant subjects by 2020.
Malcolm Turnbull put STEM development at the heart of his agenda when he took the Coalition leadership last October, saying: “We have to recognise that the disruption that we see driven by technology, the volatility and change is our friend, if we are agile and smart enough to take advantage of it.”
Shortly afterwards the Government launching the $1.1 billion National Innovation and Science Agenda, which committed $51 million to help Australian school students embrace technology and engage students in science and mathematics.
Labor’s $400 million pledge to recruit more STEM specialists challenges the Government in a key area of policy strength.
According to the Australian Education Union, around 40 per cent of Year 7-10 maths classes are currently taught by a non-maths specialist.
More than a third of secondary students are in schools where the principals say a lack of qualified maths teachers hinders learning, and a quarter are in schools where the principals says a lack of qualified science teachers hinders learning.
Launching the scholarship plan this week, shadow education minister Kate Ellis said Labor would provide 25,000 teaching scholarships over five years to recent STEM graduates.
“Boosting STEM study is about ensuring our students are competitive in the global economy and the future workforce,” she said.
“A key part of this is making sure we have secondary teachers who are actually qualified in their relevant subject, so they can teach with enthusiasm and expertise.”
The idea of using scholarships to lure graduates into teaching is not revolutionary.
It was proposed by Professor David Andrich of the University of Western Sydney in a Learning Press article back in March.
“A directive incentive, particularly with the relatively high HECS loan fees these days, is to have scholarships that pay at least the HECS, and even maybe a stipend during studies,” he said.
“Teaching is in competition with other courses and if we think the best candidates are not coming into it for whatever reason, a scholarship system would be an incentive.”
Since taking power last autumn, the PM has overseen development of a national strategy in partnership with the states and territories which sets goals for STEM improvements, including:
• Increasing student STEM ability, engagement, participation and aspiration
• Increasing teacher capacity and STEM teaching quality
• Supporting STEM education opportunities within school systems
• Facilitating effective partnerships with tertiary education providers, business and industry