Bethany goes further: "Participation in science, technology, engineering and mathematics (STEM) subjects in Australian schools is declining with enrolments in the subjects at the lowest level in 20 years." She further reminds us of the fall in performance "in school-level scientific literacy and mathematics" relative to other countries and in absolute terms.
It is a dilemma in that applicants for jobs in these fields may not be there in the future. Maybe the enrolments are down because students don't see the jobs out there.
The only sure way students could be coerced into taking the harder subjects is for states' legislation that schools had to narrow the options for upper school course selection. With my faith in the ability of today's enlightened teachers of science, technology and mathematics I don't see the problem being one of ineffective teaching or poor curriculum design. We have a relatively new and exciting Australian National Curriculum which looks pretty good to me from my sampling across subjects.
Bethany cites a former student scientist of the year pleading for the Government to do more to "raise the profile of science." This ex student now a UWA molecular science researcher cites the high regard the community has for AFL players and says we need to celebrate our scientists accordingly.
The problem I see is that the demands of painstaking scientific research don't paint an enticing picture for science students wanting to go into the field. I doubt that the fiscal returns would match what a lawyer could expect. The dead ends of much research can be a major concern that far outweighs the rare eureka moments of a breakthrough. I recall the pressure on the researcher who found the anti veneme for trapdoor spider bites and how his commitment to the task cost him his marriage.
It is probably beyond enthusiastic and innovative school Principals to find a solution to this issue, but I am sure they will weigh in within their best shot.
May the Force be with you!