Wednesday, 27 May 2015

Where will the funding and PD come from?

The best way to engage high school students with STEM (science, technology, engineering and maths) is through teachers, and have called for a greater focus on professional learning. Making these subjects compulsory in year 11-12 as Minister Pyne and Professor Ian Chubb AC, Australia’s Chief Scientist want is simplistic and masks the true problems with teaching these subjects – funding and expertise.

Students in secondary school are disengaged with mathematics as currently taught. (There is a strong emphasis on text book learning and often the subjects are taught by unqualified teachers. In fact according to Education matters magazine 40% of high school maths teachers are not fully qualified to teach mathematics (which means that, with the buying power of wealthy schools, the problem is far worse in socio-economically deprived areas, where in many schools there is not a single qualified maths teacher on the staff). Forced participation will simply exacerbate the problem of teacher shortage. So called elite private schools will cope easily with this initiative but state schools (facing cuts and no Gonski funding for the last 2 years of the initiative will struggle. Maybe that’s the idea?)

As a first step, we need to support secondary teachers, putting money and resources into professional development to build their capacity to teach in an engaging way (using iPads instead of text books would be a start), opening up students’ minds to the power and the possibilities of mathematics.

Teachers are the great change agents in secondary school. Their influence on student interest and passion for specific subjects, including science, is well documented. Our teachers must remain relevant and able to reflect the nature and issues of our changing world in their teaching and ultimately increase student engagement in science. A greater focus must be given to providing routine teacher professional learning. I have seen that myself with my own children’s response to maths at secondary school. 

Professor Ian Chubb AC, Australia’s Chief Scientist, has backed Federal Education Minister Christopher Pyne’s push for compulsory maths and science in Australia’s high schools.

Pyne will use Friday’s Education Council Meeting to push for mandatory STEM (science, technology, engineering and maths) subjects for all Year 11 and 12 students.

Children should not be pushed into subjects that they have no interest in in year 11 and 12. It is too important for them to be wasting their time on subjects that are irrelevant to their life goals. My daughter is doing 2 portfolio subjects and Japanese in year 12 and the workload is enormous. She is doing maths but opted out of science (She did year 11 Chemistry and her teacher was disappointed that she dropped it) but it was a matter of work load and she made a very mature decision in the end. 

Maybe climate science should be made compulsory in year 11 or 12? I wonder if Pyne would support that?


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