STEM surge grows, Abbott looks other way
More authorities have joined the push to boost STEM education in Australia, while the Prime Minister mocks the idea.
There is discussion this week about forging stronger bonds between science and the arts, to encourage cross-communication between two normally isolated fields.
Australia’s Chief Scientist Professor Ian Chubb has spoken this week in support of a campaign for closer connections between teaching of the sciences and the arts.
Professor Chubb officially launched a new collection of poems called Making a Stand by respected South Australian teacher and poet Erica Jolly.
Ms Jolly, aged 82, is convinced that breaking down the barriers that make silos of sciences and humanities subjects will promote better education systems and improve job prospects for students.
The push to engage students and normalise technical studies has been backed in recent weeks by Opposition leader Bill Shorten and Communications Minister Malcolm Turnbull.
When asked about introducing computer coding classes at a primary school level this week, Prime Minister Tony Abbott laughed and brushed-off the notion.
Ms Jolly says it is time for a change.
“For too long, since the 1950s, we have witnessed serious losses across disciplines as science and mathematics have been deliberately separated from the arts and humanities,” Ms Jolly says.
“Australia can significantly add to its nation-building prospect by re-establishing those connections which have been lost and which continue to be discounted by the narrow focus on STEM (science, technology, engineering and mathematics).
“We must move away from the approach in pre-tertiary education of teaching subjects as silos, by turning STEM into STEAM with the inclusion of the arts-humanities.”
She says this “more connected, dynamic approach to learning” is starting to happen in the United States of America.
A former Deputy Principal (Curriculum) at Mawson and Marion High Schools, Ms Jolly says Professor Chubb provided inspiration for a central poem in the new collection, which showcases increasing awareness of the need for more room for collaboration between the sciences, the arts and the humanities.
Both educators are on the same page when it comes to cross-over between disciplines.
The closing stanza of one of Ms Jolly’s poems says:
How many years must it take
before we reach the zenith
be allowed to feel the
connections that will
let us grasp the value
in the language of
Another poem in the collection relates to the role of mathematics in measuring and striving for sustainability - a response to a comment by the federal Minister for Education Christopher Pyne on cross-disciplinary themes in the national curriculum.
Monash University academic and noted Australian poet, Associate Professor Jennifer Strauss AM, also attended the book launch.
Dr Strauss has joined the call for the sciences and arts to align in her preface to Making a Stand, which speaks of the “intelligence of the heart” in the collection.
The book is available here. [http://www.wakefieldpress.com.au/product.php?productid=1244&cat=0&page=&featured=Y.]