The Government is committed to improving the STEM skills of young Australians to ensure that they have the skills they need to live and work in a globalised world.
As part of the $1.1 billion National Innovation and Science Agenda, the Australian Government has allocated over $64 million to fund early learning and school STEM initiatives under the Inspiring all Australians in Digital Literacy and STEM measure. This includes two measures: Embracing the Digital Age (school initiatives – $51 million) and Inspiring STEM Literacy (early learning initiatives – $14 million).
School STEM initiatives
The Government is providing significant funding to support a range of education projects to improve STEM outcomes for school students. This includes:
- $51 million for initiatives under the Embracing the Digital Age measure of the National Innovation and Science Agenda
- $1.5 million to support the delivery of Artificial Intelligence in Schools, under the Australian Technology and Science Growth Plan – building Australia's Artificial Intelligence capability to support business measure.
Supporting Artificial Intelligence in Schools
The Supporting Artificial Intelligence in Schools initiative is the school education component of the $29.9 million Artificial Intelligence Capability Fund measure, which aims to build the AI capability of both businesses and workers and provide new employment opportunities.
The Australian Government is investing $1.5 million to commission the development of a range of curriculum resources to assist with the delivery of AI and emerging technologies content and the associated general capabilities in the Australian Curriculum.
The key elements are:
- A research report to guide Artificial Intelligence and Emerging Technologies in Schools developed by the University of Newcastle including: key terms, current use of AI and emerging technologies in schools, ethics, analysis of AI resources, and advice to teachers.
- Online curation and creation of student and teacher resources housed on the Digital Technologies Hub.
- Teacher professional learning via webinars, face to face and online workshops
- Access to new and emerging technologies for use in Australian schools (particularly rural and remote schools) via the University of Adelaide’s National Lending Library.
STEM Professionals in Schools
STEM Professionals in Schools partners teachers with STEM professionals to enhance STEM teaching practices and deliver engaging STEM education in Australian schools. The initiative is delivered by the CSIRO and was previously known as Scientists and Mathematicians in Schools.
Digital Technologies Massive Open Online Courses
The University of Adelaide's Digital Technologies Massive Open Online Courses (MOOCs) provide free professional learning for teachers on the Australian Curriculum: Digital Technologies, and free access to the latest digital technologies equipment through a National Lending Library.
Digital Technologies in Focus
Digital Technologies in Focus provides support for around 160 disadvantaged schools to assist them in implementing the Australian Curriculum: Digital Technologies. The Australian Curriculum, Assessment and Reporting Authority (ACARA) has been engaged to provide specialist digital technologies and ICT Curriculum Officers in these schools.
Digital Literacy School Grants
The Digital Literacy School Grants initiative is providing funding to 114 projects that support innovative ways of implementing the Australian Curriculum: Digital Technologies in schools. As part of the initiative, two competitive grant rounds were conducted in 2016–17 and 2017–18. 54 applicants received grants in Round 1 and 60 received grants in Round 2.
Australian Digital Technologies Challenges and Dive into Code
Australian Digital Technologies Challenges are a series of free online teaching and learning activities available free to all Australian students in Years 3 to 8.
There are also some short fun Dive into Code activities that introduce simple coding concept for students.
The Australian Computing Academy (ACA) at the University of Sydney is delivering this initiative, which includes delivering 1 and 2 day professional learning workshops to primary and secondary teachers across Australia.
Principals as STEM Leaders
The Principals as STEM Leaders research project will develop and pilot new approaches to support principals to provide high quality STEM leadership in schools. Delivered by the University of Tasmania, Principals as STEM Leaders will involve around 200 primary and secondary schools in the government and non-government sectors, covering rural, regional, remote and metropolitan areas. A suite of high quality professional learning and mentoring resources developed through the project will be made available for all Australian schools to use at the end of the project, alongside a research report detailing key findings.
The Principals as STEM Leaders team is seeking Expressions of Interest from principals to participate in the research project. Principals as STEM Leaders will work with collaborating principals within pairs of school clusters. Principals must be committed to enhancing STEM teaching and learning in their schools and participating in the PL program. Principals interested in participating in the Principals as STEM Leaders project, please contact firstname.lastname@example.org.
More information about Principals as STEM Leaders Project is available on the University of Tasmania's Principals as STEM Leaders (PASL) website.
digIT (ICT Summer Schools)
digIT is a series of summer schools that target Year 9 and 10 students from groups that are under-represented in STEM and engage them in digital technologies and related careers. Delivered by the Australian Mathematics Trust, digIT gives students the chance to attend a digital technology-based summer school, accompanied by five months of mentoring and a follow-up residential school.
Science by Doing
Science by Doing provides comprehensive online science resources that are freely available to Australian teachers and students in Years 7 to 10. Delivered by the Australian Academy of Science, Science by Doing includes curriculum units and professional learning modules and offers a practical way of implementing the Australian Curriculum: Science.
Primary Connections: Linking Science with Literacy
Primary Connections: Linking Science with Literacy provides primary teachers with comprehensive curriculum and professional learning resources that link the teaching of science with the teaching of literacy. Delivered by the Australian Academy of Science, Primary Connections focuses on developing primary students' knowledge, understanding and skills in both science and literacy, through an inquiry-based approach.
reSolve: Maths by Inquiry
reSolve: Maths by Inquiry provides teaching and professional learning resources that support teaching mathematics through inquiry-based methods and help students learn mathematics in fun and innovative ways. Delivered by the Australian Academy of Science, reSolve: Maths by Inquiry resources target students from Foundation to Year 10 and are freely available to all Australian teachers.
Curious Minds (Summer Schools for STEM Students)
Curious Minds targets high-achieving female students in Years 9 and 10 through a series of hands-on summer schools. Delivered by the Australian Mathematics Trust, Curious Minds combines residential camps and a mentoring program with the aim of igniting girls' passion and participation in STEM.
Digital Technologies Hub
The Digital Technologies Hub is an online resource portal that supports implementation of the Australian Curriculum: Digital Technologies across different year levels for teachers, students and families. Developed by Education Services Australia, the Digital Technologies Hub includes curriculum linked, quality assured learning resources and activities that will equip students and teachers with the skills and capabilities they need to flourish in a digital world.
Early Learning STEM initiatives
Under the Inspiring STEM Literacy measure of the National Innovation and Science Agenda, the Government is investing $14 million to promote positive learning experiences for children aged three to five years. This will include the development of early learning STEM resources and training for educators, as well as more opportunities for families and children to take part in fun and exciting STEM activities.
Early Learning STEM Australia (ELSA) Pilot
The Government is providing funding for play-based apps that inspire curiosity and interest in STEM among preschool-aged children. The University of Canberra has been contracted to design, develop, and pilot a series of play-based digital apps that will facilitate engagement in foundational STEM practices for children in 100 preschool services in 2018. The ELSA apps consist of four play-based learning apps for preschool children (linked to the Early Years Framework (EYLF) and the Australian Curriculum Foundation), a resources app for educators and an information app for parents.
Children at the 100 pilot preschools will have access to four play-based ELSA apps, aligned with the Early Years Learning Framework. The apps encourage learning beyond the screen through active, child-centred experiences that introduce STEM practices, such as exploring location, patterns and problem solving.
The children's apps encourage learning beyond the screen through active, play-based learning experiences that introduce STEM practices, such as exploring location, patterns and problem solving.
Since the March 2018 launch of the ELSA pilot, 399 educators have registered to use the ELSA apps; 233 classes of children have been created by the ELSA pilot educators; and 3,557 children have used an ELSA app.
More information about the ELSA pilot is available on the Early Learning STEM Australia website.
The Smith Family is being funded to expand the Let's Count program to more Australian communities and to develop an online Let's Count training facility for educators as well as a parent resource. The Let's Count program is an early mathematics program for children aged three to five which is aligned to the Early Years Learning Framework (EYLF). It supports educators and parents to develop the mathematics skills of the children in their care by noticing, exploring, and talking about mathematics using everyday activities.
The Government is providing funding to Froebel Australia Limited to extend the reach of the Little Scientists program. Little Scientists helps early learning educators to build their skills and confidence in understanding STEM ideas and concepts, so that they can lead fun and inquiry-based learning activities, using everyday materials with preschool children. More information about the Little Scientists program is available on the Little Scientists program website.
Early Learning STEM Research
The Government engaged Victoria University in 2016 to look at the quality and range of STEM education apps available for early learning in preschools. Apps were assessed on how they met the learning outcomes as stated in the Early Years Learning Framework.
The research found that despite a large number of STEM apps being on the market, only a few are useful to educators to encourage STEM in early learning. This research has been used to inform the development of the ELSA apps.
Evaluation of National Innovation and Science Agenda (NISA) schools and early years initiatives
The department commissioned dandolopartners to evaluate the NISA-funded school and early years initiatives individually and as a whole. The evaluation is based on desktop analysis drawing upon existing individual initiative evaluations and contractual and performance data, available information on other STEM initiatives and consultation with a wide range of stakeholders. Stakeholders consulted included state and territory officials, non-government education representatives, principal, teacher and parent associations, ACARA, AITSL, ESA, the Department of Industry, Innovation and Science, the Office of the Chief Scientist, the Australian Industry Group, the Australian Academy of Science and CSIRO as well as online focus groups of teachers and principals and all current procurement-contracted or grant-funded providers. The evaluation found that, in general, these initiatives were working well, successfully reaching target audiences and increasing their confidence and engagement in STEM.
National STEM School Education Strategy 2016–2026
In 2015, all Australian education ministers agreed to the National STEM School Education Strategy 2016–2026, which focuses on foundation skills, developing mathematical, scientific and digital literacy, and promoting problem solving, critical analysis and creative thinking skills. The strategy aims to coordinate current activities, and improve STEM education.
In 2017, the STEM Partnerships Forum was established as one of the key national collaborative actions under the National STEM School Education Strategy 2016-2026. Chaired by Dr Alan Finkel AO, Australia's Chief Scientist, the Forum brought together leaders from industry and education to facilitate a more strategic approach to school-based partnerships with businesses and industry across Australia in order to develop the engagement, aspiration, capability and attainment of students in STEM.
The Forum Chair delivered a final report to Education Council in April 2018.
The report contains recommendations for industry, education and government and focuses on three key areas of work:
- industry's role in supporting teachers and teacher professional development
- awareness of the range of careers available for people with STEM skills and knowledge required to take advantage of these opportunities
- understanding and measuring the outcomes and impacts of partnerships.
Education Council endorsed a formal response, to the STEM Partnerships Forum report in June 2019. The response thanks the Forum members for their work and notes that the report informed the development of the National School Reform Agreement between the Australian Government and all states and territories. It also provides details about actions, at the national and state and territory level, that address the Forum's recommendations.
Education Council also endorsed a report on another national collaborative action (Share and synthesise research and evaluation findings to identify successful STEM interventions and inform school practice) in June 2019.The report analyses initiatives in terms of various characteristics, including the type of intervention, targeted group and scale, and includes evaluation findings where available. A key finding is that, although many of the initiatives have evaluations planned, there is very little robust data on which to assess the outcomes of the initiatives. The report recommends that the exercise be repeated in 2-3 years to gather more information from future evaluations. The related detailed program summaries illustrate the wide variety of STEM initiatives across Australia.
Coding Across the Curriculum Evaluation Report
The Coding Across the Curriculum program was funded by the Australian Government to support teachers implementing the Australian Curriculum: Digital Technologies in classrooms. The program was developed to produce a suite of resources that document, support, assist and promote a pedagogical approach to the teaching of digital technologies, including coding, across the different year levels in Australian schools.
The Department of Education engaged dandolopartners Pty Ltd to conduct an evaluation of Coding Across the Curriculum program. The evaluation reported on outcomes from the Digital Technologies Hub and Code Club Australia.
The key elements of the program were:
- an initial mapping exercise and gap analysis to provide the evidence base for development of new resources to encourage algorithmic and computational thinking skills across all year levels
- creation of the Digital Technologies Hub, an online resource to support the implementation of quality digital technologies programs and curriculum in schools and to support after school activities
- one-off grant support for an expansion of Code Club Australia, a nationwide network of free, volunteer-led, after-school coding clubs for students aged 9-11.
The evaluation report found that:
- teachers value the Digital Technologies Hub as a source of new ideas and lesson plans to support implementation of the Digital Technologies curriculum, and that the resources on the Hub are:
- high quality
- easy to use
- adaptable to a range of settings
- clear and engaging.
- Code Club is highly valued by its stakeholders however the reliance on desktop devices as part of the program was a hindrance for some schools.
The evaluation report made some recommendations for future improvements of the Digital Technologies Hub, which are being actioned by the provider Education Services Australia. They include:
- Develop more assessment resources (currently underrepresented on the Hub)
- Provide a greater level of detail when categorising resources for year levels and subject area/s
- Increase the number of early years of schooling resources that are in low supply
- Revisit the format of the newsletter and social media accounts
- Develop and implement a strategy to encourage repeat use of the Hub, this should include targets and other measures of success.
For a full copy of the Coding Across the Curriculum Evaluation Report please email the STEM in schools inbox at email@example.com and an electronic version of the report will be forwarded to you shortly.