And with the high-tech era fuelling job growth in STEM areas, more and more, a degree (or equivalent) is seen as the minimum requirement to enter the workforce.
There is a high demand for innovative thinkers in the NZ and global workforce and the Ministry of Education’s head of early learning and student achievement Lisa Rodgers says NZ schools do a great job inspiring curiosity for science and technology.
“But we need to do more so today’s students become tomorrow’s app developer, web designers or science innovators,” Rodgers adds.
Good teaching is needed to inspire students to tackle STEM subjects on and to excel in them, so the Ministry have established several programmes and strategies to create this ideal scenario.
The ministry is working to attract talented graduates in science, technology and maths as part of our wider education workforce strategy.
“We are supporting the Teach First NZ field-based teacher training pilot programme which attracts and retains high performing graduates and professionals in maths, chemistry and physics as well as Te Reo Māori and English,” Rodgers says.
Another initiative the ministry supports is the Manaiakalani Digital Teachers Academy programme for beginning teachers to complete postgraduate studies at the University of Auckland so they can become competent in digital teaching.
Establishing communities of learning has been integral in promoting STEM subjects – the communities help schools share expertise and effective teaching and learning across schools and sectors.
Meanwhile, Rodgers says the Ministry is working to build and develop a more comprehensive, deeper and robust understanding of the teaching workforce especially in subject specialities such as science, maths and technology through surveys and shared data.
“In addition, a national strategic plan for Science in Society, known as A Nation of Curious Minds – He Whenua Hihiri i te Mahara, a partnership between us, MBIE (Ministry of Business, Innovation and Employment) and the Prime Minister’s chief scientific officer, has been launched to raise awareness of the importance of science and technology among young people.”
The Nation of Curious Minds campaign includes a review of the positioning and content of digital technologies within the framework of the NZ curriculum and Te Marautanga o Aotearoa (the national curriculum for Māori-medium), which continues currently.
Curious Minds aims to get more students to study and develop careers in science and technology, generate greater public engagement in the benefits of science and boost skills within our workforce and make it more responsive to scientific and technological change.
Approximately $700 million has been invested into NZ schools, providing them with a high capability internet speed by way of the N4L managed network (n4l.co.nz), and further investment has gone into the School Network Upgrade Project (SNUP), which joins up IT infrastructure within school grounds as completed in early February.
As demands for innovative thinkers and STEM specialists increase, so does the need for initiatives such as the ones in place already to encourage and support students and educators in these fields.
Most STEM teacher subject association websites list upcoming conferences, professional development opportunities, information days and seminars relating to STEM education: