Many countries have increased their attention to science, technology, engineering and mathematics (STEM) education as a means of fostering innovation, responding to the increasing demands on STEM professionals, building on the potential of educational technology (EdTech) and developing a wide digital competence (OECD, 2018). While the concept of STEM prevails in many policy initiatives, the acronym STEAM (science, technology, engineering, arts and mathematics) has also been used more recently to stress the role of arts in exploring and experiencing STEM learning, and acknowledging art as a crucial component of creativity in these fields (Harris and de Bruin, 2017). On average across OECD countries, tertiary-educated adults with a degree in STEM benefit from higher employment rates than their peers with a qualification in arts and humanities, social sciences, journalism and information (OECD, 2017). A recent study estimated that shifting 1% of Australia’s workforce into STEM-related roles would increase GDP by AUD 57.4 billion (Pricewaterhouse Coopers, 2015).
In December 2015, the Australian Government announced a National Innovation and Science Agenda with almost AUD 65 million pledged for the professional development of teachers and to specialised STEM programmes in classrooms (Education Council, 2015). The Education Council also launched the National STEM School Education Strategy 2016-2026. As part of this agenda, federal and state governments have launched several programmes that seek to address three issues in STEM education:
The STEAM Teacher Education Centre of Excellence (STEAM TECE), an initiative of the Queensland state government, was conceived to address the shortage of high quality STEAM teachers by attracting mature career changers with high quality STEAM degrees and experience into teaching (Queensland Government, 2017). The programme receives financial support from the Queensland Department of Education, which has allowed an increase of placements from 14 to 20 places per year.
The STEAM TECE programme aims at providing experienced career changers with STEAM degrees with an alternative route to the Master of Secondary Teaching, at Griffith University (Queensland). The initiative was designed jointly by Benowa State High School, where the programme is based, and Griffith University. The route involves teacher candidates spending one day a week at Benowa, working in classrooms and attending seminars, one day a week in a partner school, and three days a week at Griffith University. The students also undertake two four-week practicums. Furthermore, the programme aims to provide students with high quality trained mentors. Mentors have three days of external training, plus school based training sessions. They get release time for mentoring and report writing, and funding for personal professional development activities.
This initiative has proved to be of interest to candidates, becoming quite popular with engineers. This has resulted in the programme receiving 60 applications for the 20 places offered in 2017. The selection arrangements are rigorous, including a written application and an interview to test resilience and disposition to teach. Benowa is involved in selection and final assessment of students and, with partner schools, providing mentoring. There is a stakeholder group of schools, unions and the universities to oversee the programme.
Teacher candidates participating in the programme noted that:
Teacher candidates had concerns about the financial aspects of the programme. Benowa had taken the decision not to offer bursaries for students, concerned that this might attract students without a strong disposition to teach, and so students had to leave full-time work and self-fund for the year. With such strong demand for places, financial incentives were not necessary to attract candidates, but clearly this might change if the programme were to expand substantially.
The OECD team in its review of Australia from 22-26 May 2017 noted that this practice:
The OECD team noted that this practice could:
Australian Government (2018), Labour Market Information Portal, Department of Jobs and Small Business. 
Australian Government (2014), National Teaching Workforce Dataset Data Analysis Report 2014, Australian Government, Canberra. 
Boyd, D. et al. (2011), “The effectiveness and retention of teachers with prior career experience”, Economics of Education Review, Vol. 30/6, pp. 1229-1241. 
Education Council (2018), Optimising STEM Industry-School Partnerships: Inspiring Australia’s Next Generation Final Report, Education Council, Carlton South. 
Education Council (2015), National STEM School Education Strategy a Comprehensive Plan for Science, Technology, Engineering and Mathematics Education in Australia, Education Council, North Carlton. 
Harris, A. and L. de Bruin (2017), “Secondary school creativity, teacher practice and STEAM education: An international study”, Journal of Educational Change, Vol. 19/2, pp. 153-179. 
McKenzie, P. et al. (2014), Staff in Australia’s Schools 2013: Main Report on the Survey, ACER, Melbourne. 
OECD (2018), “A Brave New World: Technology and Education”, Trends Shaping Education Spotlights 15, (accessed on 30 October 2018). 
OECD (2017), Education at a Glance 2017: OECD Indicators, OECD Publishing, Paris. 
Pricewaterhouse Coopers (2015), A Smart Move: Future-proofing Australia’s Workforce by Growing Skills in STEM, PricewaterhouseCoopers, Melbourne. 
Queensland Government (2017), STEAM Teacher Education Centre of Excellence. 
Stewart, M. (2017), The State of the Engineering Profession, Engineers Australia. 
Weldon, P. (2014), The Teacher Workforce in Australia: Supply, Demand and Data Issues, Australian Council for Educational Research, Melbourne. 
This case study describes a “promising practice” drawn from an OECD review of initial teacher preparation in Australia from 22-26 May 2017.
The OECD Review Team – Hannah von Ahlefeld (OECD), Michael Day (University of Roehampton), Kjetil Helgeland (OECD), Ee Ling Low (Nanyang Technological University), Rob McIntosh (consultant) and Emily Rainey (University of Pittsburgh) – identified a number of “promising practices” in each country. These practices may not be widespread or representative, but seen in the context of other challenges, they represent a strength or opportunity to improve the country’s initial teacher preparation system – and for other countries to learn from them.
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