HON. WAYNE SWAN MP
FEDERAL MEMBER FOR LILLEY
CONSTITUENCY STATEMENT (NATIONAL SCIENCE WEEK)
FEDERATION CHAMBER, CANBERRA
WEDNESDAY, 19 AUGUST 2015
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This week we are marking National Science Week, which celebrates and acknowledges the contributions of Australian scientists, not only on the global stage; it also aims to get more young Australians involved in science. In fact, this is one of the critical challenges our country faces in the decades ahead. We need to make sure that more of our students have computational literacy skills and that we have teachers that can effectively convey that. That is why I was really happy and really proud last Friday to join Melissa Dobbie from the CSIRO at the McDowall State School, with the principle, Mr Fogarty, and 40 excited young students, exploring all of those critical skills for the future. We had a lot of fun. The students got involved in counting exercises, learning about how to compile and segregate data and we even got to test some paper planes—mine unfortunately did not go too well, but the students were very successful.
Science Week is all about getting young Australians engaged and interested in science. If Australia wants to stay ahead of the pack in the Asian century, then we have to do much better when it comes to what is called STEM. Australia has fallen behind in STEM, in those critical skills that we require to make sure that we are innovative and competitive in our region. As our economy restructures and responds to technological change, it is vital that all Australians are skilled and able to participate with these critical skills. Three out of every four of the fastest growing occupations will require skills in science, technology, engineering and mathematics. What we need to do immediately is provide targeted investment in our school system to increase participation and to improve skills; we need to upskill our teaching profession in particular. For example, we know that there are many teachers out there. There are 20,000 teachers in science, maths and IT classes who have never studied these subjects at university. We do need immediate targeted investments to ensure that primary and secondary teachers are upskilled, and we are looking to provide additional scholarships in critical areas and additional financial support for professional development. But most particularly, critically, we need a huge boost to scholarships in this area in the near future if we are to meet the challenges of the Asian century. Our trading partners are moving right past us when it comes to these critical skills in the educational system. We have to catch up quickly. That is why Science Week is so important.