Maths and science initiatives to be cut

Victoria’s $57 million maths and sciences coaches program will be discontinued at the end of the year as part of the $441 million in cuts to be made to the education budget over the next four years.

This has raised the concerns of a number of interest groups, especially considering the ongoing shortage of maths and science teachers in Australian secondary schools and reported student disinterest in these subjects.

The program, which currently sees 200 teaching and learning coaches working with schools, was initially put in place by the opposition to help underperforming schools combat the increasing lack of student interest in maths and science, evidenced by falling student enrolment numbers in some VCE maths and science areas.

Recent reports have shown that disinterest in maths and science is particularly high among girls

The literacy improvement team initiative, which deployed a team of 60 literacy experts and specialists assisting Indigenous school students with their literacy skills, will also conclude at the end of the year.

According to the Australian Education Union, the program cuts will affect the most disadvantaged students and will lead to 310 teachers losing their jobs.

While the opposition insists that the program was intended to be a permanent fixture, Education Minister Martin Dixon has reported that there was no provision to make the program permanent and that a 2009 review found that the programs had not resulted in “a marked improvement in average literacy and numeracy achievement across age groups”.

On the bright side, the state budget has allocated funds for 100 maths and science specialists to be recruited from industry and other non-teaching fields to build the skills of primary school teachers over five years.  One-year diploma of education scholarships for 400 science graduates will also be introduced. These initiatives will begin in 2012.

CURRENT VICTORIAN MATHS AND SCIENCE INITIATIVES:

  • In2science peer mentoring program — places maths and science university students in the classroom to act as peer role models, engage with students and support teachers
  • construction of science centres — three science centres will be built in Victorian secondary schools in 2011 with the aim of providing students around the state with specialist science and mathematics programs through both face-to-face, mixed-mode, distance and online education.

CURRENT FEDERAL INITIATIVES:

  • The Scientists in Schools and Mathematicians in Schools programs — allow working scientists and mathematicians to be paired up with a class of students (in primary or secondary schools) and work as a partnership to deliver fresh perspectives to students to keep them engaged in these subjects.  As of May 2011 there were 542 science partnerships in Victoria and 2229 nationwide.
  • TheSTELR Project — links mathematics and science to the issue of climate change to raise the engagement of secondary students across the country and combat the common perception that maths and science has no application in their day-to-day lives.
  • Science by Doing — aims to engage junior secondary school students in learning science through the provision of a range of curriculum resources to schools.  

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