Samsung and Social Ventures Australia (SVA) are excited to announce an innovative new three-year partnership to bring STEM expertise and support to Australian schools in communities where those resources are most needed.

The national concern around Science, Technology, Engineering and Mathematics (STEM) skills is fuelled by gaps in resources and achievement levels between students. This is a pivotal time for STEM education in Australian schools, particularly in disadvantaged communities where, by the age of 15 students can be up to five times more likely to be low performers than a student in a higher socio-economic area. In mathematics, for example, 33% of disadvantaged students were low performers compared to only 8% of advantaged students[i].

The recent release of the latest Trends in International Mathematics and Science Study (TIMSS)[1] shows Australia has not improved in performances in maths and science in 20 years. Australian Year 4 maths students were outperformed by 21 countries, Year 4 science students by 17 countries, Year 8 maths students left behind by 12 countries and Year 8 science behind 14.

Samsung and SVA will work together to help expand the Bright Spots Schools Connection with a focus on improving access to STEM education opportunities for disadvantaged students. Support will include providing professional development for school leadership, from STEM training to coaching and school site visits; access to STEM intervention strategies; and participation in curated STEM activities including local, online and tailored expertise for school leadership teams.

Samsung Corporate Social Responsibility Manager, Tess Ariotti said: ‘Australia’s employment landscape is rapidly changing and skills in STEM are becoming increasingly relevant across all industries and future career paths.’

‘Through our partnership with SVA, we want to foster innovation and encourage STEM adoption at a system level. We hope to reach students who aren’t already engaging with STEM with high quality learning programs that will help equip them with skills for the workforce of the future.’

Established in 2014 by SVA, the Bright Spots Schools Connection supports a group of schools serving disadvantaged communities in three states. The program aims to share the success of high performing schools in tough communities, to spread what works across other schools in some of the most challenged school communities in Australia. This innovative model enables school leaders to help improve teaching and learning through a collaborative network, using evidence in practice.

The funding and support from Samsung over the coming three years will help enable the Bright Spots Schools Connection to expand its program from 26 to 36 schools. There will be a strong focus on key STEM subjects and education activities through the launch of a STEM Learning Hub. It aims to support STEM teaching talent as well as boost student interest in these subjects, in order to build a pipeline of the STEM workforce. The program will focus on schools in South Australia, Victoria and New South Wales.

SVA CEO Rob Koczkar commented: ‘It’s an unacceptable reality that young people in disadvantaged communities are much less likely to achieve as well academically as students in more affluent areas. They also tend to have fewer opportunities to access specialist STEM education, often exacerbated by limited access to technology in homes and their communities. Together with Samsung, we aim to lower the risk of the digital divide in education.’

‘The Bright Spots Schools Connection seeks to address this problem head on; as Australia transitions to an innovation-driven economy, we firmly believe that every young person in Australia deserves a great STEM education.’

The Bright Spots Schools Connection is a powerful model of professional collaboration and networking design informed by global best practice in education and learning. To identify the schools, support professional development for teachers in low socioeconomic schools and share learnings, the Bright Spots Schools Connection works closely with the Victorian, South Australian and New South Wales Governments and the Catholic Education Office Diocese of Melbourne.

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