Towards a roadmap to increase the engagement of girls in STEM Education

The literature on STEM participation and learning demonstrates a variety of factors that impact, for students generally and for girls in particular. Influences on student decisions with regards to factors range across aspects of home and community, broad public and associated personal perceptions, teaching and learning environments and school culture, and systemic factors shaping choice. These influences on students' identify formation, beliefs, and choice operate across the spectrum of a lifetime, and for each phase have different patterns of impact and suggest different potential programmatic solutions. For girls in particular there are issues with self-efficacy, identity, and deeply embedded cultural expectations, combined with traditions within the STEM subjects that are either overtly or unintentionally gender biased. Consequently, many girls lose interest and motivation to pursue STEM from an early stage of education and this is particularly the case for students in rural or remote schools, students from lower SES backgrounds and indigenous students, who tend to take up STEM pathways in even lower numbers.
Many initiatives have been taken, in Australia and elsewhere, to counter these trends. The literature dealing with these interventions targeted is diverse, from a focus on system wide public awareness, through education curriculum policy change and national projects, to targeted context-sensitive interventions in teacher learning, resource development, or special initiatives such as mentoring and industry-related experiences. The factors influencing take up of STEM have a different impact and profile at different points along a life trajectory, so that even the same type of intervention will look different for different age groups, and have different outcomes. Concluding, these interventions have not led to sustainable improvement generally.
This presentation is based on a study commissioned by the Invergowrie Foundation, a philanthropic organization with a long history of supporting girls' education based in Victoria. The study aims to develop a blueprint or roadmap for the way ahead to leverage STEM education in Australia at all levels of education, and across all sectors, with a particular focus on girls and women. The study involved a review of relevant literature, interviews with individual experts representing various sectors, and consultations with groups of stakeholders. During the presentation some results of this study will be discussed, with a focus on developing a coherent, long term strategy for comprehensive and sustained improvement of the problematic situation described above, rather than local and temporary 'fixes'.