Securing STEM Pathways for Australian High School Students from Low-SES Localities: Science and Mathematics Academy at Flinders (SMAF)

Debra Panizzon, Martin Westwell, Katrina Elliott

Research output: Chapter in Book/Report/Conference proceedingChapterpeer-review

2 Citations (Scopus)


In Australia, science and mathematics are considered key subjects for ensuring the country's economic prosperity and sustainable development into the future. Meeting this agenda requires a scientifically literate population that values science, technology, engineering, and mathematics (STEM), and the opportunities provided by careers in the field. Over the last decade, international comparisons of student achievement in science and mathematics suggest that Australian students are in general outperforming many of their peers in OECD countries (OECD, Organisation for Economic Cooperation and Development). However, what is a concern is that when these data are analyzed more critically, significant achievement gaps emerge in relation to socioeconomic status (SES) and geographical location. This chapter focuses on SES in relation to the achievement of secondary science and mathematics students. Initially, the PISA data (PISA, Programme for International Student Assessment) are used to highlight the extent of the issue for Australian students and their teachers. Following this, a number of major factors aligned to teacher attraction and retention in schools located in lower-SES localities are discussed. Having established the Australian context, the Science and Mathematics Academy Flinders (SMAF) project is presented to demonstrate what is possible when university personnel, local principals, and teachers work collaboratively to close the achievement gap for students. Importantly, this project was initiated specifically to overcome the key issues impacting student achievement and aspirations in science and mathematics associated with schools in lower-SES localities. In closing, we discuss some of the possible challenges for SMAF in ensuring that schools are empowered in a sustainable way to continue enhancing the opportunities for their students into the future.

Original languageEnglish
Title of host publicationClosing the Achievement Gap from an International Perspective
Subtitle of host publicationTransforming STEM for Effective Education
Number of pages22
ISBN (Electronic)9789400743571
ISBN (Print)9789400743564
Publication statusPublished - 2014


  • PISA
  • Science achievement
  • Socioeconomic status


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