Science skills key in literacy, numeracy push

Media Release
  • Minister for Education and Training

One hundred preschools across Australia will trial a new Turnbull Government program set to boost curiosity and skills in science, technology, engineering and maths.

Minister for Education and Training Simon Birmingham said the announcement of the start of the new Early Learning STEM Australia (ELSA) pilot coincided with National Literacy and Numeracy Week kicking off for 2017.

“We want to help children explore new ideas and skills in science, technology, engineering and maths that will in turn boost their literacy and numeracy,” Minister Birmingham said.

“This new $6 million program will give our littlest learners the opportunity to develop numeracy skills and scientific curiosity that will set them up for the rest of their schooling.

“As the pilot rolls out to 100 preschools I’m looking forward to seeing how it complements the focuses of National Literacy and Numeracy Week and encourages the sense of childhood discovery we want to foster.  

“Our new ELSA pilot introduces science, technology, engineering and maths skills at the right level for preschoolers. That means helping them develop a wide range of skills including sorting and matching while also learning about numbers and patterns.

“While preschools may not have specialist maths or science teachers, this resource will bring specialist but fun maths and science resources to their learning space.

“With employment trends showing 75 per cent of Australia’s fastest-growing careers demand skills in digital literacy and STEM, it is critical that the natural curiosity of children is encouraged early in their development.

“Lifelong learning begins from the youngest years and this is about making science fun and accessible no matter the skill level of preschoolers, educators or even families.”

The announcement comes as the Turnbull Government releases new independent analysis revealing the unprecedented success of the Early Learning Languages Australia (ELLA) apps in introducing preschoolers to a language other than English.

Minister Birmingham said the reports, by Deloitte Access Economics and Swinburne University of Technology Babylab, clearly indicate that ELLA is effective in introducing new languages to preschool children, in raising their awareness of other cultures, and in engaging their interest in learning different languages.

“We’re learning from the success of the ELLA program which we’ve supported with $15.7 million in funding to roll it out to more than 1,800 preschools and 61,000 children,” Minister Birmingham said.

“Three quarters of educators stated they have more confidence in incorporating language learning into their preschools after implementing the ELLA trial. But more pleasing still, close to 90 per cent of educators expected children to continue to demonstrate an interest in learning about additional languages beyond the completion of the program.

“Our new early learning STEM program will build on the lessons from ELLA.”

The reports released today also show that:

  • 87% of educators either agree or strongly agreed that they expect children to continue to demonstrate an interest in learning about additional languages beyond the completion of the trial

  • 96% of family survey respondents agreed language and culture programs in pre-school were a positive initiative

  • 71% parents expected their child to continue to learn another language in the future

  • Over two thirds of parents/guardians had observed their child using at least one word in the target language at home

  • From exposure to language and culture, children have already benefited from enhanced confidence, and social and communication skills

  • 75% of educators felt they had increased their confidence in incorporating language learning into their preschools

  • 68% had more confidence incorporating digital technology into their preschool program.

Minister Birmingham said consistent with a recommendation of the Swinburne report, the Turnbull Government had announced the development of a new app-based initiative to help boost literacy outcomes for Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander preschool children for whom English is a second language.

“We will soon be establishing an Expert Reference Group to guide the design, development and implementation of the $5.9 million English Language Learning for Indigenous Children (ELLIC) trial,” Minister Birmingham said.

National Literacy and Numeracy Week runs from today until Sunday 10 September. Visit: www.literacyandnumeracy.gov.au

The list of preschools selected to participate in the ELSA pilot from Term 1 next year is available at: www.elsa.edu.au.

For more information

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