big data, artificial intelligence and machine learning.
He says recasting some of the technical disciplines, such as engineering, into a humanfocused
discipline could result in an increasing interest from women.
The Business Council of Australia has suggested an overhaul of the vocational and tertiary
education systems with a shared oversight body and better information about the range of
It has called for that same culture of lifelong learning, for initial qualifications for a strong
foundation, and then modules to upskill and retrain throughout careers.
And instead of separate funding for universities and vocational training, the BCA says an
individual education “account” would allow promote individual choices.
The corporate sector’s peak body has also called for a focus on STEM, as technology
continues to transform the economy. Across the education system, STEM skills and
knowledge are increasingly sought after – but not found.
While the Australian Government pours millions into STEM advancement and advocacy,
institutions continue to struggle to attract, retain and progress women.
Industry, Science and Technology Minister Karen Andrews says parents and teachers
should encourage STEM participation.
“It’s easy as parents to brush off a dislike of maths or science with an, ‘It’s OK, I didn’t do
well and I turned out OK’,” she says. “We need to change that attitude and make STEM a
priority for our kids. We need them to keep engaging students in a way that ensures both
girls and boys are equally supported in the pursuit of STEM.”
Tech Girls Movement founder and STEM educator Dr Jenine Beekhuyzen says teachers
need to be enabled and supported to do that: “It’s challenging for teachers to have to do
the next big thing.”
Teachers need the tools, training and confidence to deliver STEM and other subjects in an
inspiring way. Beekhuyzen says there is a push to teach coding, but points to forecasts
indicate half the current coding jobs won’t exist in the future.
So what are young people to do? Beekhuyzen says it all comes back to resilience and
adaptability. Her own program inspired Kira Molloy, 20, to get into technology. She is now
on a New Colombo Plan Scholarship, studying at the top-ranking National University of
Singapore. “Before I got involved with the Tech Girls Program, I had never considered
studying computer science and was set on studying medicine,” she says. “From the
experiences I had through the Tech Girl program I was able to go to QUT and Google in
Sydney and see amazing technologies and amazing women leading the field. This ignited a
passion for me to pursue a career in technology.”
Lifelong learning key to the future – The Australian, 3/7/2020 10/3/20, 11(21 am
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At the coalface of girls’ education, Strathcona Girls Grammar Head of Digital Learning and
Innovation Michelle Dennis says the most important skills will be those that can’t be taught
from a book.
“A lot of future-proofing comes down to giving students the opportunity to encounter new
experiences,” she says.
And national award-winning science teacher Sarah Chapman, from Townsville State High
School, says future-proofing involves questioning and assessing information, from
humanities and religion, to arts and sciences.
“A lot of these things are uncomfortable for young people,” she says. “It needs to be more
of the norm.”