Australia’s first specialist STEM schools on the horizon

by James Reid10 Jul 2015

As part of the push, the Science Technology Engineering and Maths (STEM) specialist secondary schools would deliver the brightest to address the shortages in students taking science at university.

University of Western Sydney vice-chancellor Barney Glover said governments, universities and the private sector need to team up to develop the specialist schools.

“Western Sydney is, in so many respects, ideally placed to be a national leader in the upscaling of STEM capacity in schools, higher education, the labour market and, importantly, in business,” Glover told The Daily Telegraph.

Sydney Business Chamber Western Sydney director, David Borger, said the schools would improve the broader community of the area and provide more employment opportunities for young people.

“A STEM school would enrich the social fabric of the area and would provide good long term job skills to help ensure these knowledge jobs would come from students in western Sydney,” Borger said.

“We envisage the schools would also teach regular curriculum such as English and history but there would be a focus on the sciences to engage and excite the students in new ways, to retain them through into university and beyond.”

The Federal Government has estimated that up to 75% of the areas with fastest-growing jobs will require STEM skills, something many schools are becoming increasingly aware of as students prepare to enter the workforce.

However, the drive towards increasing student interest in STEM fields has been frustrated by a lack of education amongst teachers, Kate Burleigh, managing director of Intel Australia, told The Educator.

Burleigh said a major challenge in getting teachers inspired by the benefits of STEM are the considerable time-constraints due to the busy nature of their role, but added a range of tools and resources are available to assist in teachers’ professional learning of STEM.

“One of the biggest challenges in getting teachers inspired is that they’ve got so many pressures on their time,” Burleigh said.
 
“We’re trying to cut through to teachers and let them know that there are a lot of great resources that are already available to them. They don’t have to start from scratch.”

Figures released by the Australian Bureau of Statistics (ABS) in March revealed that STEM skills jobs grew at about 1.5 times the rate of other job categories in recent years – by 14% compared to 9% between 2006 and 2011.