Innovative program to boost interest in science and maths education

25 February 2010

There is currently a serious shortage of maths and science secondary teachers in Australia, and a relative decline in tertiary students completing degrees in these areas compared to other fields. To help address these needs, the University of Sydney is establishing the Institute for Innovation in Science and Mathematics Education (IISME).

An initiative of the Faculty of Science and Faculty of Education and Social Work, the IISME aims to become a leading national and international centre for research and educational programs promoting new ways to learn science and maths at all levels of schooling.

"Often children are turned off science and maths subjects early in their schooling, and the institute will be carrying out research to find out why," said IISME Director and physicist Associate Professor Manju Sharma. "Part of the problem is a lack of trained, well-resourced, and confident teachers in schools."

Professor and Chair of Education at the University of Sydney and Deputy Director of IISME, Michael Jacobson, said: "A lot of interesting work is being done on how to inspire students' interest in science. Unfortunately often it doesn't show up in schools. We'll be focussing on developing new resources, technologies, and teaching methods that can be taken into the classroom."

The institute will also be developing programs already being run by the two faculties, including `MyScience', a scheme that pairs university students studying education with university science students and sends them into primary classrooms.

"When science students join student teachers on their practical rounds, the school students really benefit by having someone who can bring the science to life," said Professor Jacobson.

Professor Sharma adds, "Student teachers and primary teachers often won't set up experiments because they are not sure about their abilities, or they are worried about health and safety issues. But when they are paired up with a science student, the student teachers can learn how to run experiments."

Professor Sharma said the new institute will expand the program and carry out in-depth research to test its effectiveness. The IISME has two recently funded Australian Research Council projects, and will also be applying for major grants to further develop research and resources in the area of science and maths education.

IISME Director, Manju Sharma, and Deputy Director, Michael Jacobson, are both available for interview.

Institute for Innovation in Science and Mathematics Education (IISME) at the University of Sydney will be launched at the University of Sydney on Friday, 26 February.

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