Good news (please don’t get splattered by the dripping sarcasm): “The Australian Government has committed an extra $12 million to restore the focus, and increase student uptake of, science, technology, engineering and mathematics (STEM) subjects in primary and secondary schools across the country.”
Yes folks, $12 million spread over four areas, over a number of years, and then across the country. It’s a risible amount of money in the face of the rhetoric about how important STEM is to Australia’s future.
The actual activities are not the problem, in fact they seem pretty good. The Mathematics by Inquiry project gets $7.4 million and “will result in a suite of innovative, high quality mathematics teaching and learning resources for Foundation to Year 10 school students, teacher and school leaders”. The Coding across the curriculum programme gets $3.5 million over 4 years to “support the introduction of computer coding across different year levels in Australian schools”. $500,000 goes to “support the establishment of a STEM focused P-TECH pilot to test and adapt this innovative US model of education-industry collaboration in the Australian context”. Finally, there’s $600,000 to help underrepresented groups attend STEM summer schools.
All of these seems like reasonable endevours although the detail of what they’ll deliver isn’t exactly as exciting as the headline descriptions. That’s not surprising given the amount of money being dedicated to them.
If the government is serious about STEM in schools, and it should be, it needs to stop the piecemeal approach, and get a coordinated and properly funded programme in place now. A few million dollars spread over four years is not going to make a significant difference to the serious challenge that the lack of STEM education presents for Australia.