Some Thoughts on STEM in Aus

I was reading this post by EdTech and the first line really jumped out at me.

“Many high-demand occupations require a solid grounding in science, technology, engineering and math.”  EdTech

Despite this article being about America, I believe that their statement applies to education here in Australia. We are living in a technological society, and our education system is struggling to catch up with it. After years of funding cuts, we have become very disconnected from “Industry Standards”. Education has been about literacy, numeracy, and developing thinking skils for the last half century or so (give or take).

We really wanted people to be able to read and think, giving them the skills to be productive members of society and chase their dreams. This is as true today as it ever was. It is a fundamental purpose of education and that should never change. BUT society has changed. We need new additional skills and ways of thinking. Technology has experience exponential grow in the last 30 years and the way we interact with information has changed. We are quickly moving away from an industrial society, transitioning into a knowledge based economy, where what we know how to do and how we know how we think are becoming more important than our physical capabilities. This social /economic shift is already happening, and our education system is trying to adapt and grow with it, providing students with new skills and knowledge to empower them in the future.

STEM is the hot topic in education at the moment, but we are playing catch up to the needs of industry. We need students to understand the concepts and thinking skills the STEM disciplines need. In all honesty though it, might be too late for many of them; some students don’t have enough time left in their secondary education for this shift to have more than a small impact on their skills. They are not a lost cause or anything like that, but they might not have the same opportunities that will be presented to the secondary school generation that follows them.

I love how STEM, and with it Computer Technology, has become a driving idea of education. There is lots of talk, but from what I have seen and heard, very little action. The government has been talking big about STEM; promising to allocate millions to education. So far this money has not eventuated, with vast sums going to “development initiatives” which seem to exclude actual schools. I hope they will deliver, but odds are it will be too little too late and complicated by the usual bureaucracy which will waste the majority of funds.

On a plus, the action around STEM seems to be happening at the school and teacher level; teachers are doing what they; making use of what limited resources they have to shoot for the best learning outcomes they can conceive. It is what we do (imagine that I have inserted a winky smiley face here). I love the energy that the push of STEM has caused; the recognition that science, technology, engineering and math are key areas for the future, has breathed energy into the subjects. If the chips fall right, the funding materializes, there is a potential of a paradigm shift in education; one that will align our educational goals with what is needed in our technological society.

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