High distinction for NBN Co STEM+X Initiative

The NBN Co STEM+X Initiative indicates that broadband is going to help ready the next generation of Australians for rewarding careers.

It’s a vitally important time for students and educators to prepare correctly for the future ahead. By 2030, one in two Australians will need working knowledge and skills in programming, software development and the building of digital technologies. At least, they’ll need this working knowledge and skills if they want a competitive advantage in the job market.

That 2030 date includes children born in the early 2010s, which means the children of today.

One in two is a huge proportion, and knowledge in these areas all stem from STEM. Science, technology, engineering and mathematics (STEM) are the subjects at the forefront of modern educators’ thinking. The nbn™ broadband access network can help play a pivotal role in ensuring Australian students have access to the tools required to excel in these areas.

Research suggests 75 per cent of the fastest-growing occupations available to our children require STEM skills. And in addition, by the time the nbn™ access network rollout is complete in 2020, it’s estimated digital technology careers will account for seven per cent of Australia’s gross domestic product, worth $139 billion.

What’s exciting is the development in STEM education techniques over recent times. It’s shifted away from purely theoretical work pulled out of a textbook and into hands-on, real-world problem-solving. Students are being encouraged to learn through experience and through experimentation within hobbies they already have and enjoy.

Such thinking played a role in the recent NBN Co STEM+X Initiative, which helped bring the latest and greatest in education techniques to students in need all around the country.

The state of STEM

The reality right now, however, is that more can be done to empower STEM education.

Professor Stephen Lamb (et al) from Victoria University published data in 2015 that revealed an almost 30 per cent drop-off in the likelihood of year 12 students from low socio-economic schools studying STEM subjects.

The NBN Co STEM+X Initiative has revealed how powerful workshops can be in taking education in these key subjects to the next level. The response from teachers seemingly proves that.

One-hundred per cent of the teachers surveyed by NBN Co would recommend that colleagues participate in the workshops.

One-hundred per cent of the teachers agreed or strongly agreed with the statement: “As a result of the NBN Co STEM+X workshop, students demonstrate a greater understanding of the link between their passions and interests.”

And 100 per cent of the teachers agreed or strongly agreed with the statement: “As a result of the NBN Co STEM+X workshop, students demonstrate a greater ability to apply STEM skills such as creativity, critical thinking and problem-solving to group tasks.”

And what about the students?

They were asked a series of questions before and after the workshops to see how the experience had changed the way they felt about their STEM education. Across each of the questions, there was a marked and positive change when comparing responses from before and after the workshops.
 

  • When asked what STEM stands for, awareness grew from 62 per cent to 96 per cent.
  • On whether they understood how STEM affects their world, there was a rise from 35 per cent to 92 per cent.
  • Seeing how STEM is connected to their everyday life and the things they’re passionate about, there was a change from 40 per cent to 91 per cent.
  • Understanding how the internet can help their STEM learning, there was movement from 53 per cent to 93 per cent.
  • When asked if they were excited about learning more about STEM, there was a shift from 72 per cent to 94 per cent.

That’s undeniable growth in subject areas that are important to students’ futures in the workplace.

On seeing the results, Allegra Spender – CEO of the Australian Business and Community Network, and one of the judges of the NBN Co STEM+X Initiative – confirmed the numbers. “Through the initiative, we were able to demonstrate to students the important role STEM plays in their everyday lives, and we also helped them make the link between what they are learning at school and potential future careers. Our aim was to inspire the students to focus on growth mindset, innovation, collaboration and creativity when tackling problems and challenges because these are the skills that will equip them for the jobs of the future.”

Moving forward

Following on from the competition element of the NBN Co STEM+X Initiative, there was a 34 per cent lift in the awareness of STEM in the students of participating schools. It’s just the start for NBN Co on its journey to do all it can to help ensure access to fast broadband – which also helps provide access to the tools required by educators and students to focus on STEM.*

“As part of our role in providing the infrastructure to support the education of tomorrow’s workforce, we recognise the importance of STEM as well as the unique passion of the individual student – the X factor – that makes up STEM-X,” explains Kathrine Dyer, Chief Network Deployment Officer at NBN Co.

“Projects like the NBN Co STEM+X Initiative are a wonderful opportunity for kids to see how STEM can be applied in the real world.

Not only are we helping to break down geographical barriers, we’re also showing young students how to make use of online technology and help expand their future employment opportunities.”

Read the full NBN Co STEM+X initiative report
*Your experience, including the speeds actually achieved over the nbn™ network, depends on the nbn™ access network technology and configuration over which services are delivered to your premises, whether you are using the internet during the busy period, and some factors outside our control (like your equipment quality, software, broadband plans, signal reception and how your service provider designs its network). Speeds may be impacted by network congestion on nbn’s Fixed Wireless network, including during busy periods. Satellite users may experience latency.