Experts say Australia is in a STEM teaching crisis.

A report released today by the Australian Mathematical Sciences Institute (AMSI) highlights “swelling secondary student numbers and a drought in mathematically-qualified teachers”.

Authorities say the same statement applies to teachers qualified in physics and chemistry too.

It is being used as a call for higher teacher qualification standards.

Australian Secondary Mathematics Teacher Shortfalls: A Deepening Crisis warns isolated solutions such as initiatives to boost the flow of maths graduates into education will fall short of tackling an issue that has been worsening over three-decades.

AMSI Director, Professor Tim Brown says urgent action is needed to set rigorous subject knowledge benchmarks in teacher qualifications, transparency of the status of Australia’s mathematically-prepared teacher workforce and retraining for those already in the classroom.

“The Federal and state governments must prioritise the collection of subject-specific teacher qualification data to track workforce standards and inform planning,” says Professor Brown.

AMSI researcher Michael O’Connor warns recruitment of new teachers would have little effect without measures to strengthen the current workforce.

“It is critical any solution takes a long-term approach with focus on strengthening both new and existing teachers’ mathematical knowledge and confidence,” he said.

“AMSI released modelling last year that shows quick fixes to address out-of-field maths teaching will not be enough to address this issue.”

AMSI researcher Jan Thomas said the worsening crisis is a result of over three decades of inaction by Australian governments, both federal and state.

“This paper demonstrates the historical failures that have contributed to the current crisis in our classrooms. The number of mathematically-prepared teachers in Australian has been in decline since the 1980s. The mathematical community including AMSI has been calling for action for decades,” she said.

The Australian Council of Deans of Science (ACDS) calls on State and Federal Ministers of Education to act urgently on the concerns identified in the report, and to extend the scope of  their actions to cover all disciplines involved in STEM.