The federal government has unveiled a new boost for math and science in schools. Announcing funding for two existing programs, Prime Minister Malcolm Turnbull said the idea is to inspire the next generation of Australian scientific geniuses.
The prime minister and his Education Minister Christopher Pyne visited the Mother Teresa Early Learning Centre preschool in Canberra to announce new funding for children's education.
The government says around 75 per cent of the fastest-growing industries now require skills in science, technology, engineering and maths - also known as STEM subjects.
And Australia is lagging behind.
Malcolm Turnbull says he wants to help nurture the next round of Australian Nobel laureates.
"If we are to be a successful nation of innovation we have to have a stronger commitment to science and technology and it has to start right across the board. This is a change for every age. But, above all, it needs to ensure that our youngest Australians, the pre-schoolers are becoming more numerate, more scientifically literate. What better way to do that than here in schools with programs like this."
To this end, Mr Turnbull announced four million dollars each for the 'Little Scientists' and 'Let's Count' training programs.
Both programs provide young students with a new way of engaging with STEM subjects which the government says will help to underpin Australia's competitiveness in the future.
"Between them, over the three and four years these programs will reach another 350,000 young Australians like the three-year-olds and the four-year-olds you've seen learning to count with snakes and ladders and dominoes, learning to count with little towers of wooden blocks, blowing bubbles, learning how water is filtered. All of those things are exciting their imagination."
Mr Turnbull says the goal is to maintain Australia as a first-world, high-wage economy with a generous social welfare net.
Lisa O'Brien is the chief executive of the Smith Family, which runs the Let's Count program.
She says the project was initially developed for children from disadvantaged communities starting school without proper early numeracy skills.
Ms O'Brien says the federal funding will help the Smith Family reach more communities.
"This program, Let's Count works through early educators with parents so they have the skills to teach early numeracy at home, so measurement, counting and doing that through games and just bringing maths into the every day. This is highly targeted program supporting disadvantaged children and it's a highly effective program. We've evaluated it over three years and we really know we're making a difference."
Sibylle Seidler is project manager for the Little Scientists Foundation.
The Little Scientists program focuses on children's schooling needs by addressing teachers and educators.
Ms Seidler says it's also about inquiry-based learning, where the children ask the questions and teachers are there to guide them through.
"We are all about STEM education in the early years and it's really our pleasure to receive this funding. It will open up a lot of opportunities for us. It will open up opportunities to up-skill educators, because that's where we come from. For us, it's all about up-skilling educators and making them very confident to go into pre-schools. So we focus on three-to-six year olds. We go into their classrooms and their pre-schools and really work with the children and keep on nurturing their natural curiosity. That's
Education Minister Christopher Pyne says the eight million dollars for the programs is part of the 112 million dollars committed to the National Innovation and Science Agenda.