[ASC-media] Mapping Taskforce media release

Toss Gascoigne a102588 at pophost.anu.edu.au
Wed Nov 26 09:59:20 EST 2003

The Mapping Taskforce and science education

The Mapping Taskforce is set to hand down its report later this week, as one
of a series of government reports into science and research.

But Australia's peak council for working scientists believes the Taskforce
will have failed unless it addresses pervasive problems in the science
education sector.

Professor Snow Barlow, President of FASTS, said the science education system
had been labouring for some years. FASTS (the Federation of Australian
Scientific and Technological Societies) represents 65,000 scientists and

"Australia is experiencing declining enrolments in the basic sciences and an
aging teaching profession," Professor Barlow said. "The problem lies
primarily in Chemistry, Physics and Mathematics.

"These are the building blocks of all science, and are fundamental to the
creation of new industries and advances in health and environment."

The Mapping Taskforce was established following the Prime Minister's CEDA
speech in November 2002.  Among the issues it was directed to address were
the development and retention of relevant skills for science, innovation and

The Taskforce report, along with other studies, is expected to lead to a new
Innovation Statement, son of 'Backing Australia's Ability'.

Despite their importance, the enabling sciences face a pervasive set of
* declining enrolments at all levels of education
* an aging teaching population
* deteriorating staff student ratios
* a high proportion of biology teachers by international standards

These problems were documented in "Australia's Teachers: Australia's Future
- Advancing Innovation, Science, Technology and Mathematics", issued early
in November.  The report will be presented to the Prime Ministers Science,
Engineering and Innovation Council this week.

The recently released "Science in Decline" report of the Australian Council
of Science Deans adds further strength to FASTS' call for urgent action.

"Our plans for an knowledge-based Australian economy are based on a
science-smart, adaptive workforce.  Unless Australia addresses these issues,
we will have stumbled at the first innovation hurdle," Professor Barlow

For interview:   Professor Snow Barlow ph (03) 5833 9255; 0407 251 574

                          Assoc Professor John O'Connor ph 0402 839 978

Mr Toss Gascoigne
Executive Director
PO Box 218, Deakin West, ACT 2600 AUSTRALIA
Phone: (02) 6257 2891
Mobile: 0408 704 442
Home: (02) 6249 7400
Fax: (02) 6257 2897

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