Federal government rounds up STEM programs in index release

The Office of the Chief Scientist has released a national guide about the different STEM programs that are available to primary, secondary, and university students.
Written by Aimee Chanthadavong, Contributor

The Office of the Chief Scientist has published the first national STEM Programme Index (SPI) to give schools access to a list of more than 250 science, technology, engineering, and mathematics programs available to students.

The guide [PDF] features businesses, universities, government departments, and community-led initiatives catering for primary, second, and university students at state, national, and international levels. Some of the initiatives included are competitions, excursions, and online activities for in-class, after school, and holidays.

For example, listed within the science category is the Big Science Competition by the Australian Science Innovations. Targeting secondary students nationally, the 50-minute long competition involves 30 multiple-choice questions and can be held at schools to help students "think critically and solve scientific problems using everyday examples".

According to the Office of the Chief Scientist, the SPI was compiled by the Australian Industry Group and the Office of the Chief Scientist, as part of the STEM Skills Partnerships programme, in response to the growing interest from the business community.

Outgoing Chief Scientist Ian Chubb said the cooperation between industry, schools, and government is necessary to enhance the STEM education levels in Australia.

"The opportunities of the future will be made through STEM, for Australia and the Australians with the skills to thrive through change," he said.

"We all have a stake in great STEM education, and we ought to cooperate in bringing it about."

Chubb will be succeeded by Alan Finkel when he finishes up his role after five years on Friday. In his departing statement on Tuesday, he reiterated the importance of STEM in the Australian education system, saying the government's recently announced National Innovation and Science Agenda was an example of a step forward in the right direction.

The Agenda includes a five-year AU$51 million investment to help students embrace the digital age and better prepare for a digital future; AU$13 million also over five years to encourage women to head down a digital career path; and an additional AU$127 million to establish a new research support program.

"There is no other path to the future that I believe Australians want than to put science at the core of everything we do -- a future of rising living standards, good jobs for those who seek them, healthy communities to enjoy and wondrous places to explore," Chubb wrote.

"Nor is there any prospect of growing the pie, or sharing it fairly, without an education system that prepares all children to be part of a world that relies substantially on science, technology, engineering and mathematics (STEM).

"It wasn't and isn't a question of just doing the same things differently. It means doing different things, too. The future demands more of us than fiddling at the edges with the policy prescriptions we've tried before. It means a focus on STEM -- learning, researching and applying."

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