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By  Amy Macintyre 31 January 2024 5 min read

Key points

  • Results in science, technology, engineering and maths (STEM) subjects in Australian schools are on the decline, despite STEM skills being crucial for Australia’s future.
  • Industry, teachers and parents all play a role in improving student engagement with STEM.
  • CSIRO Education has programs and resources ready to serve STEM professionals, teachers, parents and students who want to get involved in STEM education.

Four million students will return to school in Australia this year. Primary school students (about 50 per cent of all students), plus secondary students in years seven to 10, will undertake STEM learning as part of the set syllabus.

But by senior school (years 11 and 12), when subject selection lies in the hands of the students, there is a marked drop in interest in STEM subjects.

To compound this issue, low student interest can make scheduling senior STEM subjects unsustainable for schools struggling to meet classroom numbers. It's a detrimental cycle, but one that can be remedied by championing STEM in schools and communities.

Industry and education influence outcomes 

The gap between the knowledge generated in the education system and the skills demanded by employers is widening. But it doesn't have to.

Students may not see the value in STEM subjects. However, STEM skills are widely applicable to many career paths. Students can develop valuable skills, including critical thinking, problem solving, teamwork, and creativity.

A range of solutions can be provided by the industry and education sectors including us. CSIRO Education has supported STEM education in Australia for more than 40 years and provide a unique suite of high-quality education programs and resources.

We work to connect students directly with passionate STEM professionals, demonstrate science in action, and offer unique experiences and entry points for students to pursue further studies and careers in STEM.

Students observe a motorised vehicle as part of STEM Professionals in Schools.

Inspiring STEM in your industry

In primary school, students are brimming with curiosity. The Australian Department of Education recognises this young age is when students are developing self-belief in their ability as a STEM learner. This time presents the best opportunity to address achievement gaps among different student groups.

If you're a STEM professional, or work in government or industry, here are six ways you can join us in advancing STEM education in Australia. 

Get involved in CSIRO Education

Sponsor a program, project, or activity. Your support is an investment in the future and, as a valued partner, you can help address imminent workforce challenges across industries. You'll be helping to enhance Australia's global competitiveness and empower the next generation of STEM leaders. 

Propose a new partnership

We're always looking for new initiatives. We like to think big, knowing we support teachers and students in developing skills for careers that may not even be created yet. Your ideas can help ready them for the future.

Volunteer with STEM Professionals in Schools

STEM Professionals in Schools is a program that partners STEM professionals with teachers to bring STEM to the classroom. You can choose your own time commitment and what activities you and your partner would like to do.

Supervise an undergraduate

Are you a biomedical research provider in Victoria? Support your own talent pipeline by sponsoring the Undergraduate Research Opportunities Program or supervising an undergraduate student on a research team or project via paid internship.

Partner with Generation STEM

Businesses in New South Wales can strengthen and diversify local STEM talent by partnering with Generation STEM. This initiative facilitates community partnership, internships, and Indigenous and Torres Strait Islander supportive programs.

Offer virtual work experience

You could offer Virtual Work Experience for year 10 and 11 students who face geographic or other barriers. You can enable them to access cutting-edge STEM research, businesses, and technologies.

Dr Vanessa Pirotta speaks to year three students about whales on board our research vessel (RV) Investigator.

Strengthening science in your classroom

Teachers are undoubtedly some of the hardest working professionals. They are dedicated to ensuring Australia's young people are equipped to thrive, both in their future careers and in a changing world.

In response to challenges in Australian schools, such as teacher shortages and class sizes, many educators may find themselves teaching 'out of field' in STEM classes. For example, almost one in five mathematics classes are taught without a qualified teacher.

While this may be daunting, we can help. We provide free, curriculum aligned education programs, and free development programs for teachers. We're also well connected across Australia, partnering with more than 300 industry collaborators each year. Here are three ways we're supporting teachers.

Professional learning

We have free to download teacher resources and datasets, newsletters by subscription, and an active social community on Facebook CSIRO Education. We have professional learning opportunities. We can connect you with a large network of STEM professionals and inspiring speakers.

Tailored STEM engagement

We have subject-specific engagement opportunities, such as space and astronomy. Check out the Australian Telescope National Facility, Space Careers Wayfinder or the popular Pulse@Parkes program. We offer regional and remote student support and mentoring programs including the award-winning Young Indigenous Women’s STEM Academy or STEM Together Future Shapers.

National Science Week activities

National Science Week (10-18 August 2024) is one of our favourite times of the year. Sign up to our Education term newsletter to stay informed of what we have in store this year. And follow us on Instagram to get inspired.

Teachers enjoying networking at a CSIRO Education event.

Bringing STEM into your home

As students start making study and career choices, having positive influences and someone to talk to about career aspirations can be of value. Here are three ways to support science learning in your home. 

Read our books

CSIRO Publishing has a great selection of science books, including children's publications for young readers and amateur science lovers alike. Many include free teacher resources, activities, worksheets and questions to spark great discussions.

Subscribe to Double Helix

Get our much-loved Double Helix science magazine for kids. Or you can sign-up for Double Helix Extra, a free fortnightly newsletter with news, a quiz, a brainteaser, and a hands-on activity to try at home.

Get involved in citizen science

Make a real difference by taking part in a citizen science project. There are hundreds to choose from and you will play an important role in scientific research.

Contact us

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