The Australian Government regards high-quality science, technology, engineering and mathematics (STEM) education as critically important for our current and future productivity, as well as for informed personal decision making and effective community, national and global citizenship.
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The Government is committed to improving the STEM skills of young Australians to ensure that they have the skills they need to live and work in a globalised world. In support of this, the Government is providing significant funding for initiatives to improve the teaching and learning of STEM in early learning and schools announced in the 2020-21 Budget:
- $9.6 million to extend and evaluate the Primary Connections, Science by Doing and reSolve: Mathematics by Inquiry science programs to support student learning, including resources for teachers.
- $5.7 million to support the Foundation to Year Two expansion of the Early Learning STEM Australia (ELSA) program to improve STEM literacy and numeracy in Australian schools.
- $4.8 million to extend and evaluate the STEM Professionals in Schools program by partnering teachers with STEM professionals to enhance STEM teaching practices and deliver engaging STEM education in Australian schools.
- $4.4 million to extend and evaluate the Let’s Count program to help develop the early numeracy skills of disadvantaged children.
- $2.8 million to extend and evaluate the Little Scientists program to help early learning educators to build their skills and confidence in STEM, so that they can lead fun and inquiry-based learning.
The Government is also providing:
- $1.5 million to support the delivery of Artificial Intelligence in Schools, under the Australian Technology and Science Growth Plan, as part of the $29.9 million Artificial Intelligence Capability Fund measure.
- $9.5 million to strengthen the capacity of teachers across Australia to teach mathematics and numeracy through online professional development courses for teachers of Foundation to Year 10 students, supported by face-to-face professional learning, and a repository of teaching and learning resources through an online Mathematics Hub.
- $2.35 million for the extension and expansion of Curious Minds (STEM Summer Schools for Girls) over four years under the Women’s Economic Security Package.
Evaluation of National Innovation and Science Agenda (NISA) schools and early years initiatives
The department commissioned dandolopartners to evaluate the NISA-funded school and early years initiatives individually and as a whole. The evaluation is based on desktop analysis drawing upon existing individual initiative evaluations and contractual and performance data, available information on other STEM initiatives and consultation with a wide range of stakeholders. Stakeholders consulted included state and territory officials, non-government education representatives, principal, teacher and parent associations, ACARA, AITSL, ESA, the Department of Industry, Innovation and Science, the Office of the Chief Scientist, the Australian Industry Group, the Australian Academy of Science and CSIRO as well as online focus groups of teachers and principals and all current procurement-contracted or grant-funded providers. The evaluation found that, in general, these initiatives were working well, successfully reaching target audiences and increasing their confidence and engagement in STEM.