The Victorian Government has announced a new $1.6 million Digi-Tech Start-Up Grants funding package for schools in an effort to get students engaged with science, technology, engineering, and maths (STEM).
As part of the package, 150 high schools around the state will be allocated two robots each, and provided grants to buy other equipment, such as digital microscopes, 3D printers, and virtual reality headsets.
Minister for Education, James Merlino, said the funding will give more students the ability to learn hands-on with new technology, and prepare them for the jobs of the future.
“We want to make sure that our schools have the best facilities and equipment to give our kids the best chance to succeed,” he said.
The package will be delivered in partnership with Digital Learning and Teaching Victoria, which is also set to provide professional development to teachers to help them build their STEM programs.
The need to boost the professional development of educators teaching STEM subjects was identified by a Federal Government committee earlier this month, which warned that there must be more investment in quality STEM education if Australia is to turn back the “decay curve” of STEM-capable students.
According to the report handed down by the committee, it was found that the “quantity and quality” of Australia’s university STEM graduates is dependent on the quality of STEM education in schools.
Committee chair Andrew Laming said the key problem is that educators undertaking the teaching of STEM subjects are not themselves adequately qualified.
“Unfortunately, in some schools, STEM subjects, particularly maths, are not taught by teachers who have a specific proficiency in those subjects,” he said.
Pointing to a Position Paper of STEM from the Office of the Chief Scientist, the report highlighted the fact that only 16 percent of year 4 students in 2011 were taught science by a teacher who specialised or majored in science, and only 20 percent had a teacher who specialised in mathematics. Furthermore, fewer than one in three primary teachers had completed any tertiary study in computing or IT.
In a further effort to boost tech skills, the Victorian government also earlier this week announced a further $543,000 in funding for an innovation hub in Ballarat, the Future Innovation Community Space, co-located with the Ballarat Tech School.
Federation University currently hosts the Tech School on its SMB Campus, partnering with Ballarat Hackerspace to share specialist equipment and expertise with the wider community.
The funding will go towards creating a new, purpose-built workspace to students and community members wanting to build their STEM skills.
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