Albert Einstein is set to revolutionise science again – this time, for school children.
Researchers say it’s time to reverse Australia’s critical skills shortage in science, technology, engineering and maths (STEM), especially among young girls.
Two programs, Einstein First and Quantum Girls, will bring primary and high school science education into the 21st century.
The programs are led by Professor Susan Scott (Australian National University) and Professor David Blair (University of Western Australia), two Prime Minister’s Prize for Science recipients.
“Kids want to learn about things like black holes and not science that dates from before quantum physics was discovered,” Prof Blair said.
Trialled in Western Australia, the Einstein First program will give children basic understanding of the science behind technologies that drive the modern world.
“Our kids are curious and excited by science but they think science at school is about ‘old stuff’,” Prof Blair said.
“We must replace 19th century concepts and teach everyone the language of modern physics.
“The theories of Albert Einstein aren’t too hard for school kids.”
The second program, Quantum Girls, is bringing quantum science and quantum computing into classrooms, STEM clubs and hackathons to inspire girls.
Quantum computing is predicted to contribute $244 billion a year to the Australian economy by 2031.
But women make up less than 40 per cent of students in university STEM courses and less than 20 per cent in vocational courses, 2022 Australian industry data shows.
In the industry, men make up more than 70 per cent of senior management and 92 per cent of CEOs.
Girls’ confidence in STEM subjects is generally lower than boys, and falls as they get older.
Prof Scott said the lack of female students studying STEM in Australia was “disturbing”.
The Quantum Girls program aims to train 200 female teachers, who will then teach quantum science and quantum computing to 11-15 year old girls.
“We are at a critical time when it comes to developing our future STEM workforce,” Prof Scott said.
“The challenges and opportunities are already here, but at the moment our school system is failing us in what we need for the future.”
(Australian Associated Press)