Tuesday, 26 May 2015

Pyne wants compulsory maths and science in years 11-12

Maths or science would become compulsory for all year 11 and 12 students under a plan being pushed by federal Education Minister Christopher Pyne.

It comes as concerns continue to be raised about a declining number of students studying maths and science during their final years of high school.

Mr Pyne will call for the changes at an Education Council Meeting with state education ministers on Friday, pointing out that Australia's performance in international testing is slipping.

Results from the most recent Programme for International Student Assessment tests showed that Australian students' achievements in maths and science have slumped over the past decade.

The global report card revealed that Australian students' rankings fell from 15th to 19th in mathematics and 10th to 16th in science.

The government estimates that up to 75 per cent of the areas with fastest-growing jobs will require science, technology, engineering or maths skills - otherwise known as STEM skills.

A briefing prepared for the meeting acknowledges there is a significant shortage of STEM trained teachers, particularly in rural areas.

It also said there was a significant gender disparity in students who participated in STEM in school, post-secondary education and in the workforce, with females underrepresented.

Studying maths and science is not compulsory for Year 11 and 12 students in Victoria, NSW and the ACT. Queensland and South Australian students must take one maths subject in their final years of school.

The plan from Mr Pyne comes as Opposition Leader Bill Shorten has sought to promote his own science and maths plan that includes free access to certain university degrees and the introduction of computer coding in primary and secondary schools.

Chief Scientist Ian Chubb has repeatedly called for better science education in schools.

But in a strategy presented to the government last year, Professor Chubb stopped short of recommending that science and maths be made compulsory for Year 11 and 12 students, saying there was "no point" if the subjects weren't attractive.

"In a world utterly reliant on science, most will need at least a reasonable level of scientific understanding. ( from the Sydney Morning Herald )

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