Natasha Bita’s column “Crunching the numbers to halt the STEM decline” (30/4 & 1/5) points to an absolute despair confronting Australian education. For far too long, education has been subjected to a diminution and dumbing down of standards and expectations. With less than 10% of year 12 students opting to study the highest level of mathematics, we seem to be sinking to ‘alarming new lows’ (as started by Australian Mathematical Sciences Institute director Tim Marchant) in our ambition for students.
What should and shouldn’t be included within the domain of curriculum priorities involves never-ending conversation between education ministers, education department heads, business and industry representatives, professional groups, school councils, teachers unions, subject specialists and others. Juxtapositionally, ambition for a better tranche of graduates, multi-skilled in areas necessary for manufacturing, industrial, commercial and environmental enhancement, does not seem to be forthcoming. There is an abundance of talk about what we need to do, in order to enhance the educational standards of students. However, there seems to be a lack of will on the part of authorities to translate these ambitions into action outcomes. Despite the concerted efforts of those with stake and interest in the issue, the inclination of students toward STEM subjects continues to decline.
Without change, there is a real danger that the term ‘dumb and dumber’ might take root when describing the accomplishments of far too many students and the Australian educational system as a whole.