ANU and UWA launch a revolution in science education

Primary school students experimenting with space-time simulator. Photo credit: Jesse Groch
14 June 2023

Two national teaching programs will "revolutionise" science education in Australian schools and generate the next generation of Aussie Einsteins, quantum gurus, and our future science and technology workforce.

The national launch of the Quantum Girls and Einstein-First programs is being led by two Prime Minister's Prize for Science winners, Distinguished Professor Susan Scott from The Australian National University (ANU) and Emeritus Professor David Blair from The University of Western Australia (UWA).

The two programs will bring primary and high school science education into the 21st century and help reverse Australia's critical skills shortage in science, technology, engineering and maths (STEM), especially among young girls.

Distinguished Professor Scott said the lack of female students studying STEM in Australia was "disturbing".

"We are at a critical time when it comes to developing our future STEM workforce," Professor Scott, an internationally recognised researcher in gravity and senior member of Einstein-First, said.

"The challenges and opportunities are already here, whether it be AI, climate change or the future of computing. But at the moment our school system is failing us in what we need for the future. We can't afford to let that happen.

''In Australia, we face a big problem of not enough school-leavers choosing to pursue a career in STEM fields, and this is especially true for girls. The Einstein-First and Quantum Girls programs are designed to ignite the interest and passion in science among primary and secondary school children.

"Kids are introduced to modern concepts in physics like black holes and quantum computers through immersive, interactive, group activities. They love it, and we believe that this will translate into more kids choosing STEM careers."

Australian Government data from 2022 shows girls' confidence in STEM subjects is generally lower than boys, and falls as they get older.

The data also shows that women only make up 36 per cent of enrolments in university STEM courses, and just 16 per cent of enrolments in vocational STEM courses. And just 23 per cent of senior management and eight per cent of CEOs in STEM-qualified industries are women.

Einstein-First has created a STEM education curriculum and associated teacher training program that introduces modern science concepts, giving children basic understanding of the science behind technologies that drive the modern world, as well as climate science and renewable energy.

The second program, Quantum Girls, is bringing quantum science and quantum computing into classrooms across Australia as well as STEM clubs and hackathons that are designed especially to inspire girls. Quantum Girls expands on the success of Einstein-First and aims to train 200 female teachers, who will then teach quantum science and quantum computing to 11- to15-year-old girls.

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