Why is STEM important?

Education has a moral imperative to prepare learners for an increasingly globalised world in which technology is dramatically altering the nature of work and daily life.

In this complex environment, connecting knowledge and skills across discipline areas is vital. To thrive in this world where they must navigate future career paths, young people will also need to be equipped with particular capabilities.

Ministerial Council on Education, Employment, Training and Youth Affairs (MCEETYA) 2008
Melbourne Declaration on Educational Goals for Young Australians

In the 21st century Australia’s capacity to provide a high quality of life for all will depend on the ability to compete in the global economy on knowledge and innovation.

  • Globalisation and technological change are placing greater demands on education and skill development in Australia and the nature of jobs available to young Australians is changing faster than ever.
  • Complex environmental, social and economic pressures such as climate change that extend beyond national borders pose unprecedented challenges, requiring countries to work together in new ways. To meet these challenges, Australians must be able to engage with scientific concepts and principles, and approach problem-solving in new and creative ways.
  • Schooling should also support the development of skills in areas such as social interaction, cross-disciplinary thinking and the use of digital media, which are essential in all 21st century occupations.
    Melbourne Declaration on Educational Goals for Young Australians
    Ministerial Council on Education, Employment, Training and Youth Affairs (MCEETYA) 2008

What do the experts say about STEM education?

Office of the Chief Scientist

A strong economy in the 21st century prospers through science, technology, engineering and mathematics (STEM). Across the world, nations are competing for the high-growth firms and highly capable workers of the future; and securing the pipelines in their education systems today. They know that children entering the education system in 2016 will be joining a very different workforce in 2030. They see the rising premium on skills in STEM. In these nations, STEM education counts.

Roslyn Prinsley and Ewan Johnston, 2015, Office of the Chief Scientist, Transforming STEM teaching in Australian primary schools: everybody’s business

Business and Industry (Pricewaterhouse Coopers)

In order to realise our potential for innovation, Australia needs an appropriately skilled workforce. Businesses competing in a global economy driven by data, digital technologies and innovation will need more STEM trained employees. Research indicates that 75 per cent of the fastest growing occupations now require STEM skills

‘Effects of integrative approaches among STEM subjects on students’ learning’, Becker, K. and Park, K., Journal of STEM Education Volume 12 – Issue 5 & 6, July-September 2011, cited in PriceWaterhouse Coopers, 2015

There will also be a growing need for the broad skills that STEM fosters. Critical thinking and problem solving, analytic capabilities, curiosity and imagination have all been identified as critical ‘survival skills’ in the workplace of the future.

Ellen Kumata, consultant to Fortune 200 companies, as quoted by Tony Wagner, Tony Wagner’s Seven Survival Skills – as defined by business leaders in their own words, cited in A smart move – Future-proofing Australia’s workforce by growing skills in science, technology, engineering and maths (STEM)

Foundations for Young Australians

Young people are facing the most significant disruption in the world of work since the industrial revolution. Economic changes are transforming work through automation, globalisation and more flexible work. This could bring opportunity. But it could also further disadvantage young people in labour markets.

Foundation for Young Australians, 2015, New Work Order Report – New Work Order Report – Ensuring young Australians have skills and experience for jobs of the future, not the past

Next page: How does Stem work?