The Government plans to introduce computer science, including coding, as a Leaving Cert subject.
The move is one of almost 50 actions recommended by a new report (below) into STEM (Science, Technology, Engineering and Maths) education.
Twenty-one of those have been identified as high priority for the Minister of Education, Richard Bruton, including that teachers be fully qualified in maths and science subjects.
President of DCU Professor Brian MacCraith says there needs to be more focus on maths during teacher training.
Prof. MacCraith said: "I suppose one of the key issues is, and it's as much cosmetic as anything else, is that we've got the minimum entry requirement for a primary school teacher into initial teacher education is a D3 in ordinary level maths and a B2 in higher level Irish.
"Now that isn't saying that all the students that are coming are coming in with those minimum levels, but it's probably the wrong message."
The priority actions are summarised below:
Preparation of teachers (at primary and post-primary level) for STEM education in Ireland:
* Support all primary teachers (in Initial Teacher Education) in building their subject matter knowledge (SMK) and pedagogical content knowledge (PCK) in science, mathematics and technology as part of a broader professional portfolio of expertise and related activities.
* All STEM teaching in post-primary schools should be delivered by qualified STEM teachers (as defined by the Teaching Council), and the imbalance in the proportions of teachers qualified in biology, physics and chemistry should be addressed as a matter of urgency.
* The minimum entry requirements into the B.Ed. programme for primary teachers should be reviewed.
The best methods of supporting the current cohort of STEM Teachers within the system (with a particular focus on Continuing Professional Development):
* Develop a coherent policy framework for CPD in STEM education, recognising that this may be part of a broader CPD framework for teachers. The DES, together with partners such as the National Council for Curriculum and Assessment, Teaching Council, Higher Education Institutions, Science Foundation Ireland, subject associations and the private sector, should address this as a matter of urgency.
* Working with the Teaching Council, all stakeholders should ensure that a comprehensive suite of STEM CPD programmes is available to post-primary teachers as part of their professional learning requirements under the forthcoming Teaching Council Framework for Continuous Professional Learning.
* Develop STEM up-skilling programmes in physics, chemistry and biology for science teachers (post-primary) so that they can upgrade their registration status to a level of being qualified to teach in these subjects. Such programmes could build on the successful DES blended education model developed for the out-of-field teachers of mathematics (at UL).
* Maintain a strong CPD programme in mathematics, because mathematics is fundamental for all STEM education.
The introduction of new teaching and learning modalities that would enhance STEM education in our schools and for which there is a strong evidence base:
* Put essential measures in place to support the implementation of inquiry-based learning within the Primary School Curriculum and at post-primary level as part of the revised curricula for STEM subjects. Innovative assessment that aligns with inquiry-based teaching and learning should be developed.
* Develop a means of recognising participation in informal (extra-curricular) STEM events and activities (e.g. Science Fairs, BTYSTE, SciFest, CoderDojo, Intel MiniScientist) into the STEM curriculum and assessment at Primary and Post-primary levels.
* Develop extensive curricular materials for teachers that operationalise learning outcomes in STEM subjects at primary and post-primary levels.
The use of technology to enhance learning (especially digital and / or on-line approaches):
* Support the creation of online communities of Learning and Practice together with rich multimedia educational content.
* Provide a central (cloud-based) repository for digital learning and teaching resources in STEM subjects, approved by the Department of Education and Skills and teaching bodies. This should also include a collaborative space for teachers and learners.
* Promote and facilitate hardware-enabled approaches to technology learning, e.g. Tablets, Maker boards and kits; 3D Printers etc.
The promotion of STEM careers and the identification of methods to enhance the engagement of students in STEM subjects:
* The career possibilities for students who follow a STEM career path should be highlighted not only to students but also to parents. Parents have a strong influence on students’ subject choices. Market STEM qualifications with an emphasis on future economic needs and as a pathway to important, challenging and well-paid careers.
* Ambitious targets and a sustained, multi-faceted action plan for addressing the gender imbalance in specific STEM disciplines should be established and implemented as a matter of urgency. Particular emphasis should be placed on the marketing strategies and language used in this regard.
* Avail of partnerships with STEM enterprises (e.g. within the national Smart Futures initiative) to promote STEM careers at all levels in education.
Conclusions and general recommendations
* Produce an integrated National STEM education Strategy (STEM Education Policy Statement) with input from, and relevance to, all stakeholders across the continuum of education in Ireland (primary, secondary and third level). This strategy should include a detailed implementation plan with responsibilities and timelines clearly outlined.
* Introduce computer science (including coding) as a Leaving Certificate curriculum subject. This is critical to address the ICT skills deficit in Ireland.
* Establish the STEM 2020 Partnership in consultation with the Minister for Jobs, Enterprise and Innovation, with the initial focus of the Partnership being the establishment of a common vision and approach for supporting STEM education among enterprise and the education sector