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Tuesday, 14 June 2005
Page: 196


Mr Murphy asked the Minister for Education, Science and Training, in writing, on 17 March 2005:

(1)   Will the Government address the decline in participation in science education at the (a) primary, (b) secondary, (c) undergraduate, and (d) post-graduate level; if so, how; if not, why not.

(2)   Will the Government address the skills shortage of scientifically trained professionals in Australia; if so, how; if not, why not.


Dr Nelson (Minister for Education, Science and Training) —The answer to the honourable member’s questions is as follows:

(1)   The Australian Government is addressing the decline in participation in science education in the following ways:

(a)   Primary Level and (b) Secondary Level:

(http://www.dest.gov.au/Ministers/Media/Nelson/2004/08/n834030804.asp)   The Government also supports Primary School outreach programmes such as “SMART” (Science, Mathematics And Real Technology) Programme (run through the University of Newcastle) and EngQuest, an initiative of Engineers Australia. On 6 May 2004, the Prime Minister announced a raft of initiatives (a package totalling $5.3 billion over seven years) under the second round of Backing Australia’s Ability - Building Our Future Through Science and Innovation. These initiatives included, in response to the 2003 report of the findings and recommendations of the Review of Teaching and Teacher Education, new funding of $38.8 million over seven years from 2004-05 for measures to strengthen science, mathematics and technology education, increase the number of talented people attracted to teach in the fields of science, technology and mathematics and build a culture of continuous innovation in Australian schools in the long term, through the Boosting Innovation, Science, Mathematics and Technology Teaching (BISTMT) Programme. The main element of the BISTMT Programme is the Australian School Innovation in Science Technology and Mathematics (ASISTM) Project, through which funding will be available for groups of schools (both primary and secondary) and their partners (including tertiary education institutions, science, industry and business organisations) to promote innovative approaches and improve the teaching and learning of science, technology and mathematics in Australian schools. As an integral part of these projects, schools will engage teacher associates - tertiary students, researchers and other specialists in science, technology and mathematics - to provide positive role models, excite student interest in these subjects and assist with other aspects of projects. The linking of schools with local industry and business through ASISTM projects will help develop in students an interest and understanding of science and technology applications in the real world. The first round of ASISTM applications is currently being assessed. Round two will be advertised in the middle of this year. The Australian Government has also provided funding for a range of other initiatives to encourage and improve the teaching and learning of science and mathematics in schools. These include: - investment of almost $300 million from 2000-2009 through the Australian Government Quality Teacher Programme (AGQTP) to improve the professional skills, knowledge and understanding of teachers in specified priority areas (including science, mathematics and numeracy, and technology/ICT), and to enhance the status of teaching; - establishment of the National Institute for Quality Teaching and School Leadership (NIQTSL) with initial funding of $10 million from the AGQTP. The Institute, run by and for the profession, aims to raise the status, quality and professionalism of teachers and school leaders. The NIQTSL has four key functions: professional standards development, professional learning, research and communication, and promotion of the profession; - development of science materials and infrastructure as part of the $68 million Le@rning Federation - Schools Online Curriculum Content Initiative; - development of Curriculum Corporation’s ScienceLynx website to provide a science web portal linking to a variety of resources and support materials. - development, through the Australian Council for Educational Research (ACER), of the Science Education Assessment Resources (SEAR) project, an online assessment resource to improve assessment of science learning in schools. - collaboration with the States and Territories to develop national statements of learning for science and maths; - the $2.5 million National School Science Project to enhance the quality of primary and secondary science education in Australia; - Australia’s participation in the Third International Mathematics and Science Study (TIMSS); - development by the Australian Science Teachers Association (ASTA) of National Professional Standards for Highly Accomplished Teachers of Science; - the School Community Industry partnerships in science (SCIps) Project, which supports a diverse range of science-based partnership projects in schools; - the National Skills Shortages Strategy, which includes the Adopt a School initiative to better connect students in regional schools with local industry to increase awareness of industry careers, including those based on science and engineering skills, and a Science and Emerging Technology Careers project to create a better understanding of the potential for entry into science-based jobs and careers; - Questacon and CSIRO Education; - programmes to maintain and increase students’ interest in science, and to influence their decision to pursue science education beyond Year 10 - including the Science Connections Programme (SCOPE), which is supporting: elements of science programming available through “The Lab”, the ABC’s on-line science resource, including ‘The ExperiMentals’, a 21st Century version of ‘Why is it So?’, ‘Ace Day Jobs’ - a series on some of the fascinating jobs in Australia that require a science background (forthcoming); and News in Science; National Science Week, an annual celebration of science involving partnerships with CSIRO Education, ASF Ltd, the ABC’s Science Unit and the Australian Science Teachers Association, and including a grants programme which assists community participation nationally; The Australian Science and Mathematics Olympiads programmes, which offers students the opportunity to compete internationally in Physics, Chemistry, Biology, Mathematics and Informatics; The University of Newcastle’s Science and Engineering Challenge, an inter-school competition which introduces students to practical applications of science and mathematics and which is expanding nationally with SCOPE funding; The Australian Museum’s “Science in the City” programme, including new outreach activities in western Sydney; and the Prime Minister’s Prizes for Science, which are awarded annually to the best of our scientists and science teachers.

(2)   Addressing the skills shortage of scientifically trained professionals in Australia The Government is undertaking an audit of science, engineering and technology skills in Australia that will address the rates of participation in science subjects in education and training as well as any shortages in science professionals. The audit will include the collection and analysis of new data as well as high level analysis of existing data. The supply of science, engineering and technology skills from all levels of education and training will be analysed - including schools, vocational education and training and higher education. A report on trends in the supply of science, engineering and technology skills over time will be developed. The audit will also include research on school students’ perceptions about the study of science and mathematics, their future study intentions in respect to science and mathematics and their future career intentions and aspirations. This research is important for understanding the factors influencing trends in the study of science and mathematics. The audit will also analyse the extent to which the demand for science, engineering and technology skills are being met by the education sectors and examine the changing nature of the skills required in science, engineering and technology to address industry needs. Consultations with industry representatives and the public will be conducted to assess current and projected skill needs and to quantify such factors as skill movement, difficulty in recruitment and staff shortages. Short and long term trends in the international mobility of science, engineering and technology skills will also be analysed. This will include a report on the likely impact of international developments on the future supply of science, engineering and technology skills in Australia as well as an analysis of the likely international demand for Australians with science, engineering and technology backgrounds. This will also cover the possible effect on the supply of skilled people for Australia’s skilled migration program. The audit is a multi-faceted approach aimed at encompassing all possible routes of skill development and supply and the utilisation of these skills by Australian industry.