Victoria's economic, social and environmental goals depend on better performance in the science, technology, engineering and mathematics disciplines. However, the Department of Education and Early Childhood Development (DEECD) has not succeeded in raising achievement in science and mathematics or participation in the enabling sciences.
While Victoria does reasonably well in getting its students to basic levels of achievement, there is an ongoing issue with the relatively low proportion of high achieving students. The middle years of schooling reveal a persistent and significant drop-off in achievement. Low levels of achievement and student disengagement during the middle years are likely to deter and even preclude students from studying the enabling sciences at senior levels and ultimately pursuing a science or mathematics-related career. Science and mathematics education, and student performance, are also uneven across the state.
Teaching quality is the single most important school-based factor influencing student interest and achievement. However, DEECD lacks essential data, has failed to develop a robust workforce strategy, and has not delivered sufficient professional development for teachers. Many schools, particularly in regional and disadvantaged metropolitan areas, experience difficulty in employing suitably qualified science and mathematics teachers. This seriously compromises the future supply of science and mathematics skills and knowledge in the community.
The quality of science and mathematics classroom infrastructure also affects student interest and teaching strategies, and this varies considerably within and between schools. Additionally, DEECD's two main science infrastructure initiatives were hindered by construction delays, poor project management and a lack of leadership.