STEM – What is the Fuss All About?

Categories Blog, Primary_School, Secondary_School, STEM Subjects and Careers1 Comment

Over the past few years there has been a push by the UK government to get more pupils interested in STEM (Science, Technology, Engineering and Mathematics) subjects.

Here are 4 Reasons Why…
  • The IT industry in the UK is suffering from an insufficient number of skilled workers because graduates are finishing their degrees without the right skills. According to Empirica, there could be circa three-quarters of a million digital jobs that cannot be filled in Europe by 2020 due to skills shortages.
  • Experts in the technology industry believe that the shortage of STEM skills is akin to a national crisis. Not only are there not enough pupils taking the subjects, there aren’t enough teachers available to teach the subjects. All this is against the backdrop of UK intending to grow its space industry to circa £40 billion by 2030.
  • The government is of the opinion that the UK will be lagging behind the rest of the advanced world in research and technology if the future generations do not have the right level of passion and skills in STEM careers.
  • Given the way the digital world is disrupting every industry, we need to change the way education is delivered to match our new digital driven world.
Some Facts to Note

Because you want the best for your child

Research by the Institute for Fiscal Studies shows that students with these STEM based degrees: medicine, dentistry, economics and mathematics tend to command the highest salaries five years after graduation.

Our Preparing for GCSEs blog last year outlined how the new Attainment 8 score is calculated. If you dig into this, you will notice that all things being equal a student who excels in STEM subjects is likely to have a higher Attainment 8 score than their peers because Maths is always double weighted and the pupil who excels in more than one science subject will probably have a better score than the one who excels in only one science subject. Click here for more details of how it is calculated.

What Are You Going to Do About it?

An O2 research revealed that over 80% of children ask their parents for career advice. Basically, just in case you didn’t already know this, as a parent, you are a very important influencer; so make the most of it!

Caveat…

Every person has their own unique gifts and talents, so whereas some are very good at STEM subjects, others are strongest in the ARTS. Making a Mozart stop composing music or a Picasso abandon painting in order to focus on STEM subjects would be putting a square peg into a round hole. They would neither fulfil their purpose nor would the world benefit from the amazing talents that they are gifted with.

The intent of this article is to address the many cases where a child has blindly rejected STEM subjects out of ignorance or fear and without due consideration.

Amongst other reasons, this could be because of:

  • a lack of understanding of the potential career paths
  • a mental block/irrational fear of mathematics and other STEM subjects
  • stereotypes which give a perception that science is uncool
  • popular culture which makes the arts more glamorous and appealing
  • STEM careers being seen as jobs for males only

Most young children are very curious about the world around them, they continually ask questions and want to know how things work. In fact, to the dismay of a lot of parents, they sometimes pull valuable things apart because they want to see what is inside! Therefore to some extent we are all scientists by nature however the interest gets diminished over time due to reduced experimentation coupled with the science subjects being packaged as mundane and theoretical in a lot of schools.

Here Are 9 Things You Can Do
A. Start with yourself: 3 things

Do your homework – research and become better informed so that you are aware of the breadth of STEM careers available. The options are growing and becoming more exciting particularly given the growth in the digital world. You can’t begin to talk to your child about what is available and create a passion for these career fields if you are also in the dark.

Don’t transfer your fears or failures to your child – perhaps you had issues with Math as a child; you may inadvertently or subconsciously be signalling to your child that it is a difficult subject hence leading them to believe the same and diminishing the opportunity to excel in it.

Become more open to STEM subjects; you will be amazed at how much you can learn if you decide to learn the basics alongside your child  with an open mind. You can do this in a fun way by visiting engaging online tutors such as MathAntics on YouTube.

B. Extra-curricular Activities: 3 Things

Organisations such as Girls Guides and Boys Scouts provide stimulating opportunities for a child to explore the world around them thus developing more of an interest in STEM subjects; your child would most likely benefit from joining.

Visits to Science Museums, which cover all sciences, and/or Natural History Museums, which cover ecology and geology, will increase your child’s curiosity and interest in science AND you will also discover new things as a parent. What more, the National Museums are free in the UK so cost is not an excuse.

Organisations such as TeenTech, Apps for Good and STEMettes are fantastic for secondary school-age children as they help them understand the opportunities in the STEM industries. STEMettes is specifically for females and they introduce young girls to female role models in STEM careers who mentor them. These organisations all have regular competitions often culminating in awards; and they have links to industry leaders so often arrange visits to workplaces so that the young people can experience a day in the life of some of the technology careers.

Click here for more on extra-curricular activities in general.

C. Be Adventurous: 3 things

Find out from your child’s school if there are any creative projects that the children will be engaged in to encourage them into STEM subjects and if there is an opportunity for you to get involved.

Most of us have some broken things lying around our homes such as a non-functioning computer, television, iron etc. These things are probably taking up space in your shed or garage; before you ship any of them off to the local refuse and recycling centre, let your child take it apart to see if they understand why it doesn’t work and if they can fix it.

Rather than lounge in front of the television over the weekend or spend that extra hour on social media, why not go on a hike in the woods as a family. Places like Epping Forest have got lovely nature trails – your child will get to know more about the world around them from the sights and sounds you experience plus you get the added benefit of good exercise and spending quality time together.

Closing Notes

Given the pace at which the digital era is evolving, STEM careers will likely be playing a more significant role in our world in the not-too-distant future. There is therefore no better time than now to start encouraging your child to take their place at the forefront of the new world by choosing the relevant subjects for their GCSEs. As a strong advocate for starting early, I’d say generating the interest should start even before primary school. The future is set to become much more technologically based, don’t let your child be left behind, start from today to adopt as many of the 9 tips above as you can.

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