Your Child.Our Future. Turning STEM Graduates Into Teachers

A Shorten Labor Government will set a clear target that by 2020, all secondary Science, Technology, Engineering and Maths (STEM) teachers should be qualified in their discipline.

To help achieve this, Labor will invest $393 million to provide 25,000 teaching scholarships over 5 years to new and recent graduates of STEM degrees to encourage them to continue their study and become a STEM teacher.

From the 2017 school year, this program will better equip Australian students with the skills they will need to get good jobs in the knowledge-based growth industries of the future.

Australia must invest in STEM education

Australia is falling behind in the global STEM education race and this is a significant risk to our future prosperity.

Many countries in our region are high achievers in maths and science education while Australia’s science and maths literacy rankings are falling. The most recent PISA report ranked Australia 19th in maths and 16th in science, based on the performance of 15 year-old secondary students.[1]  In the year 2000, Australia ranked 5th in maths and 7th in science.[2]

The economic benefit of STEM skills

Shifting just 1 per cent of the workforce into STEM roles would add $57.4 billion to GDP (net present value over 20 years).
Source: PWC, A smart move: Future-proofing Australia’s workforce by growing skills in science, technology, engineering and maths, 2015.

There is also decline in students selecting STEM subjects perceived as difficult – with girls still behind boys in achievement. [3] We need to turn this around if we are to have a prosperous future.

In Australia, girls are further behind boys than the OECD average in maths achievement. Girls are also behind in science, and the gap is growing.[4]

Fewer students are studying STEM in Year 12

Year 12 participation in STEM subjects is declining. Over the twenty-year period from 1992 to 2012 there was a fall in participation of 11 per cent for intermediate mathematics, 10 per cent for biology, 5 per cent for chemistry and 7 per cent for physics.
Source: Australian Academy of Technology and Engineering, Advancing STEM Education, 2013.

The need for more STEM qualified teachers

Today in Australia, about 40 per cent of those teaching maths in years seven to ten do not have a relevant tertiary qualification.[5]

A recent survey of principals showed 51 per cent had math or science classes in their schools taught by teachers not fully qualified in the discipline. In Queensland, 76 per cent of principals reported classes not taught by teachers with formal qualifications in maths or science. [6]

Up to 75 per cent of the fastest growing occupations today will require skills in STEM, and employment in STEM occupations is projected to grow at almost twice the pace of other occupations.[7]

Ensuring that Australia’s workforce is ready for the jobs of the future begins in schools—equipping teachers with the expertise and enthusiasm to encourage students to pursue STEM subjects through to year twelve and help them achieve.

Labor’s plan to attract STEM graduates to the classroom

A Shorten Labor Government will encourage STEM graduates to teach, by offering 25,000 Teach STEM scholarships over the next five years, to address the shortage of qualified teachers.

Recipients will get $5,000 when they commence a teaching degree and $10,000 when they complete their first year of teaching. Scholarships will be open to those who have completed a STEM degree in the last five years and at least half will be awarded to women.

This acts on the 2014 recommendation of the Chief Scientist, that government lift the number of STEM qualified teachers by creating incentives for STEM estudents to enrol in teacher training.[8]

This investment will also help achieve Labor’s target – announced as part of Your Child. Our Future – that all students will study maths or science to year twelve by ensuring there are more qualified STEM teachers in our schools. Labor wants students to access a broad curriculum that is relevant to their future plans and encourages them to complete year twelve. This means that options for studying STEM in senior school should be flexible enough meet the needs of all students, including those completing vocational pathways.

STEM skills will drive future growth

Sustainable wealth creation now and in the future will be driven by science and technology. Improved quality and reach of science, technology, engineering and mathematics (STEM) education and ongoing skills development for an innovative, knowledge-based workforce are vital for Australia’s prosperity, for its capacity to meet national challenges, and for its global competiveness.
Source: Australian Academy of Technology and Engineering, Advancing STEM Education, 2013.

Labor’s record

In Government, Labor introduced the needs-based Gonski reforms, providing the resources needed to close the equity and achievement gaps in Australian schools.

A Shorten Labor Government is committed to reversing all of the Turnbull Government’s school cuts and will invest $36 billion more than the Liberals over the next 10 years. This includes $3.8 billion more in the 2018 and 2019 school years alone.

This will mean every student in every school will get the individual support and attention to achieve their best.

Labor has committed to finishing the six-year school funding agreements on-time and in-full. We know targeted, needs-based funding is making a difference, and it is vital to improving education opportunities for Australian students.

Financial Implications

Funding for Your Child. Our Future – turning STEM graduates into teachers was previously announced as part of the Future Smart package in Labor’s Budget Reply 2015, and is offset from Labor’s announced improvements to the Budget.


[1] Programme for International Student Assessment, PISA 2012 Results in Focus: What 15-year-olds know and what they can do with what they know, OECD, Paris, 2012.

[2] Programme for International Student Assessment, PISA 2000: Overview of the Study Design, Method and Results, OECD, Paris, 2000.

[3] OECD, What Students Know and Can Do: Student Performance in Mathematics, Reading and Science – Volume, 2013.

[4] OECD, What Students Know and Can Do: Student Performance in Mathematics, Reading and Science – Volume, 2013.

[5]Office of the Chief Scientist, STEM: Australia’s Future, 2014.

[6]Australian Education Union, State of Our Schools Survey, 2016.

[7]Office of the Chief Scientist, STEM: Australia’s Future, 2014.

[8]Office of the Chief Scientist, STEM: Australia’s Future, 2014.

Authorised by G. Wright, Australian Labor Party, 5/9 Sydney Avenue, Barton ACT 2600