International Report Card: Australian Mathematics Crisis Looms
The Australian Mathematical Sciences Institute (AMSI) says it is time to move beyond funding debates and take action on mathematics education with Australia’s international relative positioning in rapid decline.
The call follows this week’s release of 2015 Trends in International Mathematics and Science Study (TIMSS).
Only seven per cent of Australian Year 8 students are currently meeting the advanced international benchmark, with many likely to start tertiary education within the next four to five years. With 75 per cent of Australia’s fastest growing employment areas demanding mathematics and STEM skills, this leaves little time to turn ensure Australia’s workforce is equipped for future innovation opportunities.
“We are talking about the workforce in as little as 15 years. This data points to a systemic mathematical skill shortage that could bring innovation to a standstill,” said Professor Prince.
The severity of this situation, AMSI Director, Professor Prince says, “is expected to become clearer with the forthcoming release of Programme for International Student Assessment’s (PISA) findings.
AMSI is calling for immediate action in the classroom, in particular to address the long-standing issue of out-of-field teaching.
“Currently at least 26 per cent of Australia’s secondary teachers of mathematics are not fully equipped to teach the subject. We need to be working with these teachers now.”
Data released in AMSI’s Discipline Profile shows that proportional Year 12 participation in advanced and intermediate mathematics has been declining for almost two decades.
Instead of a focus on marks and end-game results such as tertiary entrance rankings, the Institute is calling for incentives to be built into schools to encourage students to try their hand at higher-level calculus-based maths subjects.
As a key step in turning the tide on current maths culture, AMSI continues to push for the phased reintroduction of university prerequisites.
“As a first step, universities need to send a strong message about the value of these subjects to schools, as well as students and parents, by reintroducing prerequisites for entry into science and engineering degrees,” says Professor Prince.
The report, says AMSI, is a wake up call and chance for reform. We need to act now to avoid a missed opportunity for Australian industry.
“These students are the thirty year olds of 2030, without immediate and decisive action industry will be forced to seek STEM skills internationally to maintain our competitive position,” says Professor Prince.
Discipline Profile: http://amsi.org.au/media/Discipline-Profile-2016.pdf
AMSI Policy 2016/17: http://amsi.org.au/media/Securing-Aust-Maths-workforce-2016.pdf
Australian Year 12 mathematics Participation Rates 1995-2014. Source Michael Evans and Frank Barrington (data collection commissioned by AMSI):
Professor Geoff Prince, AMSI Director
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