According the latest National Australia Bank Business Confidence Survey, Australian companies, regardless of industry, say it is becoming harder to find staff with suitable skills. While Australia’s low level of unemployment is a factor, it is likely also due to a mismatch in popular areas of study with skills most in demand by employers. For instance, over the past decade the proportion of Australia’s population aged 20 to 64 studying STEM has seen a modest decline while STEM skills are in high demand. Recognizing this, the Australian government has allocated recently more than AUS$64 million (US$47 million) for STEM initiatives to encourage study in the field, which may help alleviate the skill shortages of the future. Read more from Business Insider Australia.
The UK Department for Education has announced that a new National Centre for Computing Education will support computer science instruction in schools across England, where the subject is included in the National Curriculum throughout compulsory education. The center is supported by £84 million (US$109 million) in government funding and will be developed by three British STEM-sector organizations – the British Computing Society, the Raspberry Pi Foundation and STEM Learning – in collaboration with the University of Cambridge. Through a network of up to 40 school-based “hubs,” the center will provide a range of supports for primary and secondary school teachers, including professional learning opportunities and instructional resources. It will also provide an intensive training program for secondary school teachers who lack a postsecondary computer science qualification. The long-term goal of these efforts is to increase student participation in computer science courses and ensure that teachers have the support they need to teach the new computer science curriculum introduced in 2014. According to UK Minister for School Standards Nick Gibb: “This is part of the Government’s drive to raise academic standards so that pupils have the knowledge and skills they need to succeed in our outward looking and dynamic economy.” Read more from Computer Weekly and I Programmer.
Girls consistently earn higher grades than boys in Finland, a new 12-year cohort based study found. The differences are primarily found at the top of the distribution, meaning that girls are significantly more likely to earn higher grades than boys. The study also raised warning signs for Finland’s efforts to promote equity: students born to wealthy and well-educated parents are significantly more likely to succeed in school than their less affluent peers. Read more coverage of the study at the Helsinki Times.
This week more than half a million Korean high school students took the College Scholastic Ability Test (CSAT), the all-important national university entrance exam. The test is nine hours long and includes content in a wide variety of subject areas. Students typically begin studying for the exam at age 13 or 14 during their first year of high school, knowing that only two percent of test-takers will receive offers at top-tier universities. The CSAT is just one of many tests that serve as gate-keepers to highly desired entry-level positions in in both the private sector and civil service so students are always studying for the next test. Even after getting a job, almost every form of advancement in professional sectors requires passing an exam. Experts say that this “culture of extreme studying” leaves young South Koreans ill prepared for real life. Young people spend so much time studying, they argue, that they do not gain the confidence and ability to problem solve and work flexibly. The government has made some efforts to address this issue by broadening college admission criteria to include personal characteristics such as commitment, leadership, and other strengths. Read more in the South China Morning Post here.