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Don’t limit a child to your own learning, for he was born in another time. Rabindranath Tagore

STEM - part of a plant, a type of cell, … . If you were asked what the STEM Strategy involved, how well would you be able to answer ? Could you even explain what the acronym stands for ? [Actually, it stands for Science, Technology, Engineering & Mathematics]. Why is it important and why does it tend to slip under the radar

As the Chief Scientist indicates - “Many of the countries we collaborate and compare ourselves with are taking urgent and planned actions to improve their skill and knowledge base in any or all of STEM”. The UK and the US are both some distance ahead [special centres and advisors]. While our “luck” at being blessed by a resources boom is starting to decline, one of few options available is the ability to maximise use of our skills and intelligence and compete with the rest of the world in areas which are more reliant on STEM capacity - and this importance is increasing not decreasing.

For some time, there have been concerns about declining Mathematics standards; declining interest, especially in the “harder” areas of science; concerns over ways of developing greater interest in these areas; greater involvement of women in areas such as engineering. While there are a number of concerns, some initial steps are starting to occurr.

Much is coming from the Chief Scientist’s Office, aided by individual institutions, groups, states, etc.. We are already seeing specialist positions such as the National Adviser, Maths & Science Education & Industry [Chief Scientist] and the University of Sydney appointing Adam Spencer as their Maths and Science Ambassador [Uni. of Sydney].

Even more important is developing a better understanding and enthusiasm for these areas in the early years. Much is going to rely on how well this is achieved. Fortunately, steps are beginning to take place. These include the University of Western Sydney which runs a range of programs; the University of Tasmania Community Engagement Through STEM Education; states developing a specific STEM Skills Strategy [SA] and issuing a Discussion Paper [Queensland].

Critically, we are beginning to question how we enthuse student enjoyment and learning in these areas. Articles such as Who learns in maths classes depends on how maths is taught are only the tip of the iceberg, but they need to continue.

A Draft Outline of a STEM Strategy was issued in June 2013. Further discussions were held since. These must only be seen as first steps. We need to progress much further than this or we will be left behind and we simply cannot afford to be.

For further information, consider a World Today interview with Ian Chubb, and Australia’s Future : Science, Technology, Engineering &, Mathematics [“Meet the brightest stars of STEM”] booklet.

Other Areas of Interest

Doubtful debt : the rising cost of student loans [Grattan Institute] has raised some interesting points, particularly in the present economic climate. With student debt at $26 billion [of which $6 billion is unlikely to be recovered under the present system] and rising, there are plenty of suggestions and commentary.

Not all is downbeat. Some benefits are seen from the way the system operates in terms of access and equity and the potential expansion of contingent loans. However, developing agreement with other countries [one in-principle agreement exists with New Zealand] and even “collecting debts after death” have been suggested. Solutions may depend on economic need and on the willngness of a government to make really hard decisions. As they say, watch this space - the Budget is not far away.

TAFE never seems to be far from the surface, either nationally or in individual states. TAFE systems in NSW, Victoria and WA, at least, are well in the news with cuts, suggested improper pressures [TAFE teachers told ‘don’t testify’], duelling federal parties [MPs duel over TAFE] and the poor financial status of many [Victoria]. Sadly, one wonders when we will get back to hearing stories of quality skill development, people clamouring to be enrolled and staff being lauded for the high level of teaching provided. What a change that would be, as they do still occur.

Site Changes

The following pages have been completely updated : links, descriptors, exclusions, additions : ESL, Gifted Education, Homeschooling, Indigenous Education, International Education, Online Education, Vocational Education and World Education. All can be accessed through the Education link in the menu.

Special Education is the next area to undergo a complete review, link checking and update.

Updates have been added to the following pages : Competitions, University Open Days, Conferences, Education Journals.

13 April 2014.

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