6 December 2017: A holistic approach to education, engaging children in cross-disciplinary learning in response to the current economic climate is increasingly important, according to a report authored by a global leader in STEM (science, technology, engineering and mathematics) education at the University of Canberra.
In the report, STEM Education for all young Australians, Centenary Professor Tom Lowrie argues that Australia needs to teach the STEM practices that underpin the field, rather than focus on content knowledge.
“An increasing number of professions will require STEM knowledge into the future, however, this knowledge will not remain specialised or localised within specific fields,” Professor Lowrie, from the University’s STEM Education Research Centre (SERC), said.
“We need to ensure that young students, starting in preschool, are familiar with the building blocks of STEM. We may not be teaching them things like physics theory or maths equations at that age, but we want to expose them to practices of experimentation, observation and enquiry.”
“School education needs to be responsive to these needs and prepare children for the future they will live and work in.”
Professor Lowrie said equipping teachers to engage students in STEM practices can lead to better results throughout their schooling and beyond.
“It is one of the advantages of teaching STEM practices rather than STEM content; teachers do not have to worry about making links to the curriculum, or missing content. They can draw inspiration and examples from the world around the students, their local environment or community.”
“The focus of this kind of education is not about how much knowledge of science, technology, engineering and mathematics a student can recall during an exam. It’s developing students’ capacity to relate to the subject matter in the first place; by saying, doing and connecting.”
The report was commissioned by Social Ventures Australia in partnership with Samsung Electronics Australia.
Read more about SERC's work on the Federal Government's Early Learning STEM Australia (ELSA) pilot.