STEM are seen as important areas of skill and knowledge for young people wishing to pursue careers across a wide swathe of fields, including everything from research and development to renewable energy, forestry, allied health, computer sciences, gaming, business development and manufacturing.
However, STEM teaching and learning is about far more than simply applying a set of skills and knowledge to existing career areas – it is about developing new fields of endeavour and aligning these to the future development of Australia’s economy and its financial and environmental wellbeing.
As the deliberations of the Paris Climate Change Convention last year have shown, the role of STEM has probably never been more important and its consequences never more far reaching.
The focus on STEM has been reinforced in recent times with a Federal Government statement about Australia’s future need for innovation and creativity as part of the launch of the National Innovation and Science Agenda.
A recent paper published by Australia’s Chief Scientist about the vital role of STEM in Australia’s future included a strong focus on the need for inspired, planned and highly skilled teaching of STEM subjects across all educational sectors from primary level upwards.
It stated that there was a need for a core STEM education for all students, encompassing:
- inspirational teaching,
- inquiry-based learning
- critical thinking—placing science literacy alongside numeracy language proficiency as a priority
(p. 22 Office of the Chief Scientist 2014, Science, Technology, Engineering and Mathematics: Australia’s Future. Australian Government, Canberra.)
But the challenge for teachers remains – how to engage students and sustain their interest in what have traditionally been perceived as the ‘academic’ subjects, reserved for students who are often highly able?
What can teachers do to promote interest in these areas of challenge and help students begin to see themselves as capable achievers at a range of levels within the STEM fields, able to succeed and forge positive and exciting careers for themselves into the future?