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Every High School in Australia Will Have at Least One Math And Science Specialist Under This New Plan

America, take note.

FIONA MACDONALD
9 JUL 2018
 

Every high school in Australia will have to hire science and mathematics teachers who have studied those subjects at a university level, according to a new Federal Government plan.

 

That means there'll be at least one specialist in each of those disciplines in each high school. (In the first four years of high school in Australia, math and general science are compulsory subjects).

While having qualified teachers sounds like it should just be common sense, a 2013 survey revealed that one in five Australian science teachers for Years 7-10 (students roughly aged 12-16 years old) have not completed any university level subjects in the field.

So while they might have a general, high school-level understanding and passion for science, they're not people who have chosen to pursue the field further at university, which is worrying when we rely on these people to get the next generation interested in science and mathematics.

In the US, it's even a challenge to get solid science onto the curriculum.

A 2017 study showed that while 99 percent of preschool teachers engage in literacy instruction three to four times a week, that number falls to 75 percent for math and 42 percent for science. 

The research suggested that early childhood educators lack the knowledge, skills and confidence to effectively teach their students science.

 

This is particularly concerning given that studies also show students have already established an interest or disinterest in science by highschool, and formed their opinion on whether they would enjoy studying science, by the age of nine.

On top of this, science teachers in later years remain confused about allegedly "controversial" issues such as climate change - despite the fact that 95 percent of scientists agree that human actions are causing the planet to warm.

And then there are states such as Idaho, Florida, and New Mexico who try to remove these topics from the curriculum altogether, despite the fact that the majority of Americans want their kids to learn about it. 

So it's no wonder we're seeing reports of declining student interest in science.

This decline has also been occurring in Australian, where the number of students choosing to take science dropped from 55 percent in 2002 to 51 percent in 2013.

The number of overall math students remained at 72 percent, but students were choosing easier level mathematics, rather than tackling the more advanced subjects.

In fact, intermediate and advanced level math declined from 54 percent in 1992 to 36 percent in 2012, the report found.

 

It's clear something needs to be done, which is why the new Australian plan is so exciting.

Australian Education Minister Simon Birmingham hopes that, if it's accepted by individual states and territories, the move will encourage more kids and teenagers to get involved with STEM - science, technology, engineering, and mathematics - and pursue the subjects after school.

"It's not just about knowledge of content," Senator Birmingham told Australia's ABC News.

"It's also about ensuring students are inspired to stick with maths, to stick with the sciences, so that they continue right through their schooling years and hopefully into further studies to give us more skilled scientists and more people skilled in the STEM disciplines."

Further down the line, the Government hopes the plan will put pressure on universities to get more people to study STEM subjects.

To get the plan through, the Government will need support at the state and territory level, as they're the ones that employ teachers. 

We'll have to wait and see what the response will be, but so far the Australian Science Teacher's Association has welcomed the move.

Although spokesperson Jenni Webber admitted it will be challenging to convince specialist science graduates that teaching is an appealing career.

She added that they would also like to see the Government focus on getting highly-qualified science and math teachers in the younger year levels.

"That's where students' passion begins," Webber told the ABC.

 

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