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:
CURRENT FEDERAL INITIATIVES: