Women will be strongly represented in the next crop of Science, Technology, Engineering and Mathematics (STEM) teachers graduating from The University of Western Australia.
The influx of female role models into STEM teaching positions is likely to encourage more female high school students into STEM careers, according to the Dean of the UWA’s Graduate School of Education, Professor Helen Wildy.
“Over the next few decades, Australia’s largest job growth is going to be in STEM-related fields,” Professor Wildy said. “One report predicts that half all jobs will require high-level programming and IT skills within 15 years.
“At UWA, our job is to graduate teachers who prepare students with skills for this future. One of our biggest challenges is encouraging girls into STEM fields; currently only around 16 per cent of Australia’s STEM qualified workers are female.
“The good news is that women now comprise 63 per cent of UWA’s students studying to be STEM teachers.
“Studies show the impact on girls of having female Mathematics and Science teachers: girls who attend schools with more female STEM teachers are more likely to study a STEM-related university degree.
“At UWA, we are taking a broad approach to addressing the serious national shortage of secondary Mathematics teachers. We use a number of strategies, including targeted scholarships and immersion placements.
“As a result, we’ve seen a huge increase in students wanting to become Mathematics teachers. The proportion of completed teaching majors in Mathematics leapt by over 500 per cent from 2015 to 2016.
“I’m excited to see the difference that our next generation of STEM teachers—both female and male—will make in the lives of their students.”
In Australia, older male teachers comprise a large proportion of STEM teachers. More than half of all Mathematics high school teachers are male—and of those, nearly half are aged over 50. The statistics are similar for Physics and Chemistry teachers.
The effects of an ageing teacher population will be exacerbated by growing student numbers. Data from the Australian Bureau of Statistics suggests that between 2011 and 2020, Western Australia will have gained an additional 84,240 primary school students—or the equivalent of 351 new classes each year. The increasing demand will flow through into high schools from next year.
Verity Chia (Faculty of Arts, Business, Law and Education) (+61 8) 6488 1346