"Why the next Zuckerberg won’t be Australian": Disappointing STEM results in Australian schools and what can be done
We’ve been silent on our blog for a few weeks because we had our hands full with the very busy school holiday season! Over the first two weeks of July, almost 420 kids came through either our own Sydney school holiday workshops or the sessions we conducted on behalf of North Sydney and Willoughby local councils. It was a fantastic response – many thanks to all the junior master builders who joined us in the sessions, for their creativity, enthusiasm and ideas! You can see some photos from our workshop sessions over on our Facebook page.
At BRICKS 4 KIDZ Australia, we are passionate about the need for Australia to be a nation of builders and we want to play a positive role in inspiring kids about the potential of STEM concepts (Science, Technology, Engineering and Mathematics). We’ve written before about the importance of STEM education in schools, for the careers of our kids and the health of the economy they will inherit. So it was disappointing to come across another article detailing the disappointing state of STEM education in Australian high schools!
Tim Dodd wrote recently in the Australian Financial Review about the recent Engineering Workforce study conducted by the Australian Workplace Productivity Agency (AWPA). The full study results can be downloaded here.
Dodd’s article, provocatively titled “Why the next Zuckerberg won’t be Australian”, highlights a number of key points from the AWPA study:
Australia lacks a “co-ordinated national approach” to STEM education;
Students are poorly informed about engineering and other STEM professions; and
The school career counselling system is letting down the STEM professions, by not correctly advising students about the potential of the professions and the paths towards those professions.
This lack of emphasis is reflected in the average results achieved by Australian students in global studies of maths achievement in primary school and early high school. In the recent Trends in International Mathematics and Science Study, only 10 per cent of Australian year 4 kids reached the advanced standard, compared with 39, 37, 43 and 34 per cent from Singapore, South Korea, Hong Kong and Chinese Taipei (Taiwan) respectively.
Nick Cerneaz, executive director of the Warren Centre for Advanced Engineering at the University of Sydney, weighed in on the discussion and his arguments are also captured in Dodd’s article. Cerneaz believes (as we do) that the key to reversing these results rests with primary school. Students need to be stimulated and their intellectual curiosity peaked by STEM concepts early in their school years before their perceptions of university subjects and subsequent careers harden in high school.
At BRICKS 4 KIDZ, we’ll continue to contribute our bit. Seeing the flash of pride and excitement when a child builds something new, or succeeds in making their construction move, spin and whirl, makes two exhausting weeks of workshops with over 400 different kids worth all the effort!
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