An increasing focus on STEAM subjects in schools mean Tasmanian students could rank highly against their international peers when the Programme for International Student Assessment (PISA) starts testing for creative thinking in 2021.
The state’s focus on science, technology, engineering, arts and mathematics meant Tasmanian students are leading the way, University of Tasmania arts education lecturer Dr Abbey MacDonald said.
Dr MacDonald recently travelled to Canberra to join discussions around the need for a greater focus on the arts in school curriculum, and presented information to national arts educators on Tasmania’s STEAM programs.
She said “eyes lit up” during her presentations with national educators surprised by Tasmania’s forward thinking.
“When I shared those examples in that national context, people were impressed by what’s being done down here,” she said.
“We really do punch above our weight. A lot of schools and teachers are doing this really organically and grass-roots, they’re just finding ways to make things work.”
With PISA expected to start testing all 15-year-old students for critical thinking in just three years, Dr MacDonald said it proved that the arts and humanities deserved more respect in the school curriculum.
Dr MacDonald is working with UTAS and the Peter Underwood Centre to develop school STEAM programs that could be used nationally.
The Tasmanian Education Department also recently launched a STEM website showcasing the strengths of the state’s STEM-focused curriculum.
However, Dr MacDonald said, there was still more to be done to ensure arts education was not seen as a “soft” study option, but one that would help students retain ethical, thoughtful decision-making in their learning.
“The next step … is making it really visible, [studying] the schools that are achieving outstanding learning through their STEAM programs and looking at what’s transferable,” she said.