Federal Opposition Leader Bill Shorten delivered his budget reply in parliament overnight and put funding for education, particularly STEM (Science, Technology, Engineering and Maths) education, down as a top priority.
“Digital technologies, computer science and coding – the language of computers and technology should be taught in every primary and every secondary school in Australia and a Shorten Labor government will make this a national priority,” he told parliament.
Shorten also flagged a boost in investment for STEM training current teachers and new graduates.
“Labor will boost the skills of 10,000 current primary and secondary teachers, we will train 25,000 new teachers who are science and technology graduates and we will write off the HECS debt of 100,000 science, technology, engineering and maths students.”
The Labor Government said it will work with the Australian Curriculum and Reporting Authority (ACARA), along with the states and territories, to ensure that computer programming, or coding, will be taught from the start of schooling in every school by a teacher that has had the appropriate training.
To create a steady pipeline of STEM-qualified teachers the Labor Government has proposed to support 5,000 primary and secondary teachers per year to undertake professional development in STEM disciplines, with coding to be a key focus of the program.
Labor has also proposed to provide 25,000 teaching scholarships over five years to new and recent graduates of STEM degrees. Students that have just completed a STEM degree, or graduate within five years, will be able to apply for a $15,000 incentive payment. $5,000 will be paid upon commencement of the course of study, with the remaining paid after their first year in the classroom.
The Federal Government’s Teacher Education Ministerial Advisory Group report Action Now: Classroom Ready Teachers released earlier this year was hailed a blueprint for “critical and lasting reform” of teacher education. Led by Professor Greg Craven, the Advisory Group was asked to make practical recommendations on improving teacher education programs to better prepare teachers with the skills they need for the classroom, with one of the main recommendations being a specialisation for primary school teachers with a focus on STEM and languages.