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Enhancing aspirations for STEM careers in rural, regional and remote communities

Chief Investigator: Associate Professor Philip Roberts.

Funder: Department of Education & Training, Higher Education Participation and Partnerships Programme National Priority Pool.

Project Timeline: October 2016 – March 2018.

Overview: This project explored the relationship between rural students’ knowledge of STEM in rural careers, their aspirations towards STEM careers, subject choices and university admission. Rural students often have less access to STEM subjects in senior secondary high school, a situation that in turn limits their ability to gain entry to university study. The project had a particular focus on how the nexus between aspirations and understanding of rural STEM careers influences senior school subject selection, which in turn impacts upon subsequent university study.  Through understanding the needs of the rural sector related to STEM & innovation, and students' perceptions of rural industry, we are able to sketch the beginning of a strategy for highlighting the relevance of STEM to rural careers and innovation that can be used to encourage students to take relevant STEM subjects in their senior studies and subsequently university.

Research Approach: This project has involved a national survey of students, teachers, parents and community members of their understandings of the link between school subjects and rural industry STEM careers.  This was followed by interviews and focus groups around the nation with industry groups to explore these issues in greeter detail, and multiple focus groups with students in rural schools.


Findings: The project identified a lack of understanding of the nature of modern rural industries by many students and teachers in rural schools. Consequently many students, and teachers, did not understand the relationship between school subjects and careers in modern rural industries.  Instead teachers, and university aspirant students, used the language of academic disciplines.  Similarly rural industry leaders did not understand the language of school subjects, and consequently were not able to link their industry needs and the subjects students study at school. Bringing this together the projected illustrated a significant language gap between students wanting to pursue rural careers, teachers and rural industries.

Related Publications:

Project Outcome: Report titled "Enhancing Aspirations for STEM Careers in Rural, Regional and Remote Communities" is available by clicking the following link - NCSEHE - National Centre for Student Equity in Higher Education, Curtin University.

Other publications from this project are presently under peer review.