Policy Analysis and Program Evaluation

Publication Date



STEM education, Educational policy, Schools, Curriculum, Teacher supply and demand


This literature and policy review was undertaken to inform Policy Insights 7, and was itself informed by the key messages of the ACER 2016 Research Conference, ‘Improving STEM Learning: What will it take?’.


This literature and policy review outlines the complex context related to STEM learning in Australian schools and focuses on student outcomes, the teacher workforce and the curriculum. This paper also sheds light on possible policy directions by examining lessons from other countries. STEM education is a broad enterprise that starts in early childhood education, continues through the years of schooling and extends into tertiary education supported by contributions from extracurricular and enrichment activities, science centres and museums. However, the focus in this document is on primary and secondary schooling. Australian STEM education seems caught in a whirlpool of problems that are contributing to one another. Student engagement and performance in STEM are declining, but we do not have the supply of qualified teachers we need to improve learning. The STEM curriculum is unbalanced and fragmented, leading to less interest among students. It is not possible to break out of the downward cycle from within the current system and it requires policy changes that address the issues raised in this report. This means developing well-considered, systemic and joined-up policies that address the following challenges: Improving student outcomes, building the STEM teacher workforce, and rethinking the STEM curriculum.

Place of Publication



Australian Council for Educational Research (ACER)