NCWQ Education Report 2021/2022
Prepared for the AGM 2022
by Deslyn Taylor, Education Adviser.
2022 has been an interesting year for Education. It started with a UNICEF report that called for the Australian Government to :
- ‘Put children at the heart of equitable and sustainable progress – Improving the well-being of all children today is essential for achieving both equity and sustainability
- Leave no child behind – National averages often conceal extreme inequalities and the severe disadvantage of groups at the bottom of the scale’ (1)
COVID exacerbated these problems. The inequality divide had become more marked as schools were forced to rely on remote learning for long periods of time and children had to rely on home computers and reliable fast Internet into their homes. The quality, power and speed of the equipment they were relying on differed vastly. (2)
As the year progressed we saw the recognition that Education has an important role to play to benefit our nation. State Governments have increased funding for Early Childhood Education – for all children in NSW and Victoria and for disadvantaged children in Queensland.
The Federal government will increase funding for Early Childhood Education for at least the year before formal schooling for all children in Australia in 2023. This will also allow all women to return to the workforce/careers sooner if they wish.
Governments have also recognised an ongoing problem with women and careers in STEM.
On September 21 2022 ‘the Australian government released the STEM Equity Monitor 2022 – the nation’s annual scorecard on gendered participation in science, technology, engineering, and mathematics (STEM) education and careers….Future careers in all sectors will rely heavily on STEM skills. But a lack of diversity means we have a limited workforce, and it’s missing a broad range of perspectives.’ (3)
The number of women enrolling in STEM courses is increasing but their retention in the workforce is poor because ‘there’s far too little attention paid to actually keeping STEM-qualified women in the workforce. A five-year study of STEM graduates from the year 2011 found that by 2016, only 1 in 10 STEM-qualified women worked in a STEM industry, compared with more than 1 in 5 STEM-qualified men. Bias, discrimination, and sexual harassment are major factors that drive people from workplaces. Solving these issues receives too little funding and attention.’ (3)
We need to address the systemic issues that allow this to take place.
STEM courses also require a high standard of Mathematics. ‘Students are basically turning away from Mathematics after Year 10, thinking Maths is really hard, it’s not really fun, they think they might get a higher ATAR if they choose no Mathematics at all, or an easier Mathematics subject,’ (4)
As Mathematics is often the base for STEM subjects this exacerbates the problem. Universities have had to reduce entry requirements in some STEM courses because they could not get sufficient students with appropriate Mathematics background from High School. Their solution is to create bridging courses in Mathematics to fill in the gaps in the student’s knowledge.
Some of these problems would also be resolved if teachers were better supported particularly ensuring they had a sound basis in any Mathematics subject they were required to teach so that they could approach it with confidence which may enable their students to do this as well. “Teachers have a crucial role in improving student outcomes. We need not only to lift course and graduate standards, but also to ensure teachers are well supported so they can contribute fully as highly developed experts in a widely respected profession.” (5, 6).
The Federal government is now looking into women in STEM initiatives. They are starting to recognise many long term problems :-
The Australian Academy of Science champions diversity in STEM
- More bias against women: ‘Female-sounding’ patent applicants are less likely to be successful
- Honouring forgotten women scientists, mathematicians, programmers and palaeontologists
- The review on women in STEM: a physicist’s perspective
- Women scientists are less likely to be credited for their work (7)
Hopefully we may finally see a long awaited improvement in this area.
Deslyn Taylor (Education Advisor Qld)
M Ed.(QUT), B.A. (U.Q); Grad. Dip. Comp.Ed. (QUT)
SDGs : 4, 5, 10
- https://pwc.com.au/government/government-matters/covid-19-education-how-australian- schools-are-responding.html
- https://theconversation.com/more-women-are-studying-stem-but-there-are-still-stubborn- workplace-barriers-190839
- https://acer.org/au/discover/article/1-in-4-australian-year-8s-have-teachers-unqualified-in- maths-this-hits-disadvantaged-schools-even-harder
- https://cosmosmagazine-com.cdn.ampproject.org/c/s/cosmosmagazine.com/people/review- women-in-stem/?amp=1