Paving the STEM pathway from school to university

Paving the STEM pathway from school to university

Charles Sturt University (CSU) is seeking to encourage more regional NSW high school students to pursue a STEM career by sponsoring six STEM-related events this year.

Aside from pledging to give $2,000 to six ‘Science and Engineering Challenge 2020’ events in Bathurst, Dubbo, Kempsey, Orange, Wagga Wagga and Young, the university said that it will also be sending a CSU Engineering representative to provide assistance.

The ‘Science and Engineering Challenge,’ organised by the University of Newcastle in partnership with local committees and organisations, seeks to pique Years 8-10 students’ interest in STEM. The first event will start in Young on 3 March.

The recently-released NAP – Sciences Literacy assessment revealed that Years 6 students posted better results in understanding scientific concepts. However, Year 10 students had lagged behind with only half of these students reaching the ‘proficiency standard.’

CSU Engineering director Professor Euan Lindsay said in a statement that students who will participate in the events will move on to pursue their studies at CSU, given the steady demand for engineers in Australia and overseas.

“Our students understand that CSU Engineering offers a radically different approach to undergraduate engineering education that focuses on human-centred engineering and diverse opportunities for students to explore authentic problems.”

Engineers Without Borders NSW region vice-president Chelsea Hayward said that engineering is expected to play an leading role in the jobs of the future as more experts continue to highlight the importance of STEM careers.

With school leavers also placing high interest in STEM, other universities are also ramping up their own STEM programs and offerings.  In January, engineering deans from different universities formed the Engineering for Australia Taskforce to address gender balance in the profession.

La Trobe University last month launched an app to help secondary and university students find their pathway to a STEM career through an app which connects them to a STEM professional.

Looking out for gifted kids

Meanwhile, the University of New South Wales (UNSW) is taking a more specific approach to develop future talents out of gifted children from lower socioeconomic backgrounds.

The University’s GERRIC, an education facility which seeks to support high-ability Years 3-10 students, holds three-day GERRIC Student Programs every January and July. Students who are covered by this program are usually in the top 10% of their peers.

Two GERRIC programs – Junior Scientia for Years 3-6 students and Scientia Challenge for Years 7-10 – are set at two years above the student’s enrolled school level. Aside from science and technology workshops, students can also apply for art and humanities-related programs.

UNSW is one of the three Australian universities with teacher training programs that include specialisation in gifted education.  Student teachers taking up the course are taught to identify gifted students but are underachieving as their teaching needs are not met.

Associate Professor Jae Jung, GERRIC director, said in a statement that gifted children need to be taught at a faster pace and also learn more complex material to keep them stimulated.

In an opinion piece published in the Daily Telegraph, Centre for Independent Studies’ Education Policy research fellow Blaise Joseph said that there should be higher standards for future teachers as well. 

More than just mastering basic literacy and numeracy – a requirement before teachers can graduate from university – Joseph said that new teachers should be able to also think, speak and write at high academic standards.

The bar should even be higher for secondary teachers, who are expected to have deeper knowledge of the subject they will handle.

However, Joseph said that universities often place more important teaching skills such as evidence-based literacy instruction at the backburner in favour of other courses such as the politics of education.