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Monday, 13 February 2017
Page: 884


Mrs ANDREWS (McPhersonAssistant Minister for Vocational Education and Skills) (18:42): I am delighted to be up here, speaking on this motion. I commend the speeches that have been made by my colleagues the member for Forde and the member for Berowra. They certainly put into context the debate that we are having today. It is important, though, that I also put on the record, in support of my colleagues' and the government's position, that as we promised at the last election the coalition does continue to provide a record investment in our schools to the tune of $73.9 billion over the next four years. Education funding under this government will increase from $16.1 billion this year to $20.2 billion in 2020. So there are no cuts—let's be very clear on that. The funding under this government to education is increasing over the forward estimates.

When I spoke on school funding in the MPI only last week—I certainly look forward to speaking on future MPIs on education more generally, but I am very happy to speak on the specifics on school funding as well as my own area of vocational education—what I said was that of course the quantum of the funding for education is important, but it is just as important, if not more so, that we are very aware and conscious of how that funding is actually being used. If I could just pause for a moment to pass on my congratulations to the principals, teachers and all staff at our schools around Australia, who have done a fantastic job in the past and I know are very committed to improving the education outcomes for our students in Australia. That is what my government—the Turnbull government and the coalition—is committed to: ensuring that the education outcomes for our students increase.

We all know that when we look at Australian students' performance and compare it to the outcomes of a number of overseas countries, our performance is not where it should be. We have turned our minds to what we can do to improve our performance and make sure that the students of Australia have the opportunity to compete globally because, quite frankly, that is the market that our students, now and into the future, will be operating in. We know that that there is a lot of work that needs to be done. We have already commenced work on the plan that we put in place some time ago to ensure that our students are at world standard as soon as we can possibly deliver that for them. We have made an announcement; we have presented our Quality schools, quality outcomes paper and we have focused on five key areas. I will not go through them because of the time available today, but I certainly do commend that document to those opposite, so that they are fully aware of what the government's program actually is.

In the brief time that is remaining, I want to talk about the skills of the future that we know we need to develop for our students, and they are particularly in the STEM field: science, technology, engineering and maths. I listened to the former chief scientist, Professor Ian Chubb, speak on many occasions about the need to improve the STEM skills of our students. The statistics that he used are particularly important. He talked about the statistics over a 20-year period from 1992 to 2012. He looked at year 12 students over that time frame. In 2012, there were 30,800 more students in year 12 than there were in 1992, but there was a significant decrease in the number of students who were studying maths and science subjects. Of that 30,800, there were 8,000 fewer physics students, 4,000 fewer chemistry students and 12,000 fewer biology students. Of that significant increase of 30,800 year 12 students over that 20-year period, we saw an unsustainable decrease in students who were studying maths and science subjects.

As a government, we have recognised that and taken some action to address that issue. We have provided over $64 million in initiatives to improve the teaching and learning of STEM in the early learning areas and schools under the National Innovation and Science Agenda, which we announced just over 12 months ago. This is in addition to the additional $12 million that was previously allocated to increase the uptake of STEM subjects at school. This government is committed to producing outcomes.