It’s no secret that when compared to other industrialised countries, Australia is lagging behind in Science, Technology, Engineering, Arts and Maths (STEAM) education on the world stage.
Earlier this year, it was revealed that Australia ranked last out of nine countries in confidence in education and skills for future job prospects.
However, this may soon change, with a global technology leader launching a new initiative to boost student outcomes in STEAM education.
As part of a broader push to improve skills in this area, Microsoft Australia will soon give 1,000 students a chance to boost their digital literacy skills by helping them learn how to code, understand game design and create applications.
The ‘Full STEAM Ahead’ program will provide interactive STEAM experiences for students to boost their engagement in what are fast becoming crucial areas of the 21st Century economy.
The initiative is in partnership with the Australian Business and Community Network (ABCN) and the Museum of Applied Arts and Sciences (MAAS) to deliver computer science education to disadvantaged youth across Australia.
Anna Howarth, Microsoft Australia’s philanthropies manager, told The Educator that the initiative has great value for principals who are interested in helping their schools’ students boost their skills in an engaging way.
“For the better part of two decades, we have become increasingly reliant on computers and digital technology. Australian principals are aware of this and realise that programs boosting digital literacy can open many doors for their students in the future,” Howarth said.
“The Full STEAM Ahead initiative is a great example of this, providing school principals with support in taking their learning programs beyond the traditional education environment – either on-site at the Powerhouse Museum or online via Skype.”
Howarth added that by forging new relationships outside school boundaries, principals can explore new ways of delivering digital education as well as give their staff the opportunity to gain additional digital skills to better assist their student’s education.
School-business partnerships have been changing the way STEAM education is being delivered, both in teaching and learning. Howarth said that it is unrealistic to expect schools to bear sole responsibility when it comes to providing digital education.
“If we as a society expect the next generation to be digitally literate, then we need to be prepared to collectively help them get there,” Howarth said.
“Whether it’s initiatives like Full STEAM Ahead or ABCN programs that improve opportunities and outcomes for disadvantaged students, learning needs to be supported both inside and outside of school.
“Partnerships between schools, businesses and not-for-profits aren’t necessary about changing the way education is delivered, but rather enabling learning to be a continuous and engaging experience.”
Australia’s lag in STEAM education has been a concern, especially on the back of reports showing that within 10-15 years, nearly 40% of Australian jobs will be automated.
Howarth said that despite ground being gained in recent years, stigmas associated with excelling in science and mathematics are holding many students back from engaging in STEM education.
“There still seems to be a persistent stereotype that digital skills such as coding are niche or nerdy, which in turn ultimately impacting the amount of students wishing to pursue further studies,” she said.
“What’s more, parents also need to get on board and understand how digital literacy can benefit their child and their future path, which we’ve already seen start to happen.”
However, Howarth added that progress is nonetheless being made.
“STEM is vital to the Government’s National Innovation and Science Agenda, which aims to provide the next generation with the digital skills needed for the workforce of the future,” Howarth said