May 10th 2019
STEM Teaching Crisis
A report released today by the Australian Mathematical Sciences Institute (AMSI) highlights ‘swelling secondary student numbers and a drought in mathematically qualified teachers’. The same statement could well be said of teachers qualified in physics and chemistry.
This is a fundamental problem that undermines all of the strategies to improve the STEM experience for students and engage them in it.
The Australian Council of Deans of Science (ACDS) calls on State and Federal Ministers of Education to act urgently on the concerns identified in the report, and to extend the scope of their actions to cover all disciplines involved in STEM.
The AMSI press release highlights the lack of transparency about the STEM knowledge base of the teaching workforce, and the extent to which teachers out-of-field are being asked to teach STEM subjects.
Education authorities may, and sometimes do, question the importance of teachers completing university studies in STEM. Whatever the merits of that argument, it doesn’t justify having no publically stated and monitored measures to assure the quality of disciplinary grounding and experience required to undertake STEM teaching.
The AMSI report also demonstrates that you won’t lift the STEM knowledge base of the teaching worforce by focussing on teacher education, that is, pre-service education. Measures need to be taken for the existing workforce.
However, there is little space and little reward for teacher professional learning. There needs to be a change in teachers’ professional environment so that their own learning is considered to be as serious a matter as the learning of their students.
We are all life long learners these days. Professions learn through respected professional networks that involve all key stakeholders in a peer environment. Until the education system supports comprehensive professional networks that engage with industry, universities and the community it is unlikely that we will solve the problem of lifting the STEM knowledge base of the teaching workforce.
Professor Brian Yates President, ACDS
0439 281 553
Professor John Rice, Executive Director, ACDS
0438 438 097