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“Strengthening School – Industry STEM Skills Partnerships”: A critique

TJ Ryan Foundation Board member, Geoff Edwards, provides a review of the recently released Strengthening School – Industry STEM Skills Partnerships report from the AI Group, commissioned by the Office of the Chief Scientist. The report assesses recent efforts to improve student participation in STEM-related disciplines by encouraging school and industry collaboration, including through student placements in host firms and organisations.

‘The report … describes a number of pilot projects in which primary and secondary schools engaged with industry with a view to strengthening the interest of students in science, technology, engineering and mathematics (STEM).

‘This critique is written in my capacity as an independent scholar. It draws on insights gained at events organised by the Royal Society of Queensland and summarised on its website (, but it is not written in my capacity with the Society and the views expressed are my own.

‘… Industry placements can have mutual benefits but carry significant overheads for both sides. They are no substitute for reform of the education system so that every school graduate leaves with adequate life and work-ready skills.’

Want to solve our STEM skills problem? Bring in the professionals

Meera Varadharajan writes in The Conversation (29.11.17) that STEM professionals who change careers to become teachers are often intrinsically motivated, and can help engage kids in STEM subjects with their ‘real-world’ experience.

‘The role of technology, the changing nature of the work force and the effects of globalisation means citizens and governments are playing catch up to make sure our future generations are capable and competent to perform the jobs of tomorrow.

‘Recent Australian studies show there’s a decline in student participation in science, technology, engineering and maths (STEM) subjects in high school. OECD data also shows we’re lagging behind high-performing countries like Singapore and Taiwan in literacy and numeracy.

‘We want more of our students to take up STEM in schools and universities so we have a steady stream of graduates skilled in these areas for the future.

‘Teachers can have a strong influence on students’ engagement and interest in STEM subjects, and on how they view maths and science in terms of future careers. Research has shown students are more likely to be motivated and interested in their studies if they’re taught by effective and inspiring teachers.’

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