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Building Australia's Capacity and Gender Inclusion in STEM Sectors

Presented alongside Commonwealth Bank and Australian Council for Educational Research, Palladium's Cassian Drew promotes an innovative partnership between the government and private sector to build Australia's capacity in the STEM sector.

Australia's Future Competitiveness
Levels of science, technology, engineering and mathematics (STEM) will be important determinants of a nation’s future productivity and economic competitiveness. Future STEM levels will determine a nation’s ability to contribute to, rather than simply consume, scientific and technological breakthroughs and advances. At the same time, a growing percentage of future occupations will require high levels of STEM learning and skill. And beyond this, higher levels of scientific literacy will be required in society if citizens are to make informed decisions about environmental, health, technological and privacy issues that will impact them directly.

In this context, it should be of concern that there has been a steady decline in the mathematical and scientific literacy levels of Australian 15 year olds since at least the turn of the century. The decline in mathematical literacy has been dramatic. Australia has declined from being one of just a handful of very high performing countries in 2000 to performing little better than the OECD average in 2012. An indicator of this decline is the observation that the performance gap between Australia and South Korea increased by the equivalent of a full year of school between 2000 and 2012.

It also should be of concern that there has been a steady decline over several decades in the percentage of Australian Year 12 students choosing to study advanced mathematics and science subjects. This decline has been particularly marked in the subjects Advanced Mathematics and Physics.

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