As a UK-based website, the global readership of our STEM resources is a constant source of fascination for us. At present our top 5 countries of access are:
2) United Kingdom
3) United States
4) New Zealand
This got us thinking. How does STEM education differ between these countries? Who is doing it ‘best’? We’ve done our research and these are the findings:
In 2015, all Australian education ministers agreed to the National STEM School Education Strategy 2016-2026 which focuses on developing mathematical, scientific and digital literacy; and promoting problem-solving, critical analysis and creative thinking skills. The strategy aims to deliver improvements to STEM education and has two main goals:
- Ensure all students finish school with strong foundational knowledge in STEM and related skills
- Ensure that students are inspired to take on more challenging STEM subjects
The Australian government also funds several early learning and school-based initiatives. This includes a $AUD 6 million investment in the ‘Early Learning STEM Education’ scheme (ELSA, a play-based digital STEM learning platform for preschool children). They will invest $AUD 4 million in the ‘Little Scientists‘ STEM professional development programme for early childhood educators and teachers. The ‘STEM professionals in schools‘ programme facilitates partnerships between schools and industry to bring real-world STEM into the classroom.
A 2016 report, entitled UK STEM education landscape conducted by the Royal Academy of Engineering highlighted that the UK needs better coordinated STEM education from a young age in order to have a long-term impact. This includes changing negative stereotypes associated with STEM careers and providing better professional development for teachers to help them apply learning within a real-life context. The UK government recognises the importance of encouraging students from an early age to have an appreciation and growing understanding of science. There are a wide range of public, private and third sector initiatives aiming to support STEM engagement for young people. These include STEM Learning and WISE Campaign. These organisations can approach the Educational Endowment Foundation (EEF) for funding, an independent charity which funds innovative educational approaches that have the potential to raise attainment and improve outcomes.
The United States recognises the need for investment in STEM education in order for young people to be competitive in the jobs market. In September 2017 President Donald Trump signed a presidential memorandum to expand access to high-quality STEM education for young people. It will put STEM education, particularly computer science, at the forefront of the Department of Education’s priorities. It also aims to devote at least $200 million a year in grant funds towards this area.
The New Zealand government has recently been encouraging schools to promote STEM education in the hope that this will ease the STEM skills shortage. The Ministry of Education supports teacher training programs such as Teach First and Manaiakalani Digital Teachers Academy programme which help to place high performing STEM graduates and digitally confident teachers in education.
A national strategic plan, A Nation of Curious Minds, is a government initiative with a ten-year goal to promote the importance of science and technology in New Zealand. Since 2015 it has funded more than 175 projects in excess of $NZD 6 million.
India is the second most populous country in the world. In 2015 Prime Minister Narendra Damodardas Modi launched the ‘Skill India‘ campaign, aimed at training over 400 million young people in different skills by 2022. One such skill is STEM education. One challenge the country faces in doing so is designing the infrastructure and curriculum to support this objective. Since the campaign began there has been a focus on developing innovation and manufacturing skills from a young age. The India STEM Foundation organisation works in partnership with India’s Department for Science and Technology to promote STEM education across the country. Other organisations playing a pivotal role in developing STEM education in India include STEM Champ and EduTech.
After reviewing the government policy initiatives and third sector contributions in these five countries, we think Australia may be slightly ahead of the game. But what do you think? Add your comments on this below.