$1.2 million philanthropic gift extends free support for girls studying maths and sciences in school

Associate Professor Michael Phillips
Associate Professor Michael Phillips

The Monash Virtual School will continue and expand thanks to an additional $1.2 million in philanthropic funding from The Invergowrie Foundation, it was announced today.

According to Faculty of Education Dean Professor Viv Ellis, the philanthropic gift will enable Monash University to offer girls in Grades 5 and 6 and in Years 11 and 12 additional support for their STEM studies via free online lessons.

“The generous support will continue for seven years, giving girls — particularly those from low-income or rural areas — more opportunities to advance in their studies,” Professor Ellis said.

The Invergowrie Foundation CEO Kim Bartlett said they were proud to continue their partnership with Monash on this project, as part of their mission to advance the education of girls and women, particularly in STEM.

“Monash Virtual School removes financial and geographic barriers and helps address gender inequality. By funding the program for a full seven years, we want to foster long-term change for girls and expand their career options.

The move follows a successful 2022 pilot program – also funded by the Invergowrie Foundation – which is providing 56 free revision classes in VCE biology, physics, chemistry, psychology, information technology and methods, specialist and general mathematics. More than 22,000 places in these classes have been booked by students so far this year.

“We have already seen the benefits of the program with students gaining valuable knowledge through the revision sessions. Moreover the program is also assisting in the development of the preservice teachers and providing a beneficial teaching experience. It will be exciting to see the Monash Virtual School evolve,” Ms Bartlett said.

The next phase of the Monash Virtual School increases the number of VCE revision classes and includes a new co-designed series of free online STEM interventions for Victorian students in Grades 5 and 6 to support their transition into secondary STEM education.

According to Monash Virtual School founder, Associate Professor Michael Phillips, the whole program is designed to change the story for girls in STEM and shift statistics.

  • Women represent less than a third of those employed in scientific research, and male students aspire to STEM careers at double the rate of girls.
  • The STEM Equity Monitor shows five years after graduating, men with a STEM qualification were 1.8 times more likely to be working in a STEM-qualified occupation compared to their female peers.
  • Pronounced gender pay gap between qualified men and women working in STEM industries.

“It is so important to remove the barriers for girls and young women interested in STEM subjects and give them every opportunity to succeed in their continued education and careers.

“We are proud to offer this opportunity for girls to not only take up STEM subjects, but to excel in this field. It’s about providing support and encouragement to build confidence and open up career pathways,” Professor Phillips said,

Professor Phillips added that the Monash Virtual School will provide vital support as well as foster research into online learning and teaching.

The Invergowrie Foundation’s generous philanthropic gift contributes to the university’s Change It. For Future Generations campaign, which is the largest public fundraising initiative in Monash’s history.

References:

Second national data report on girls and women in STEM | Department of Industry, Science and Resources

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