Over the past few years there has been a push by the UK government to get more pupils interested in Science, Technology, Engineering and Mathematics – STEM subjects.
4 Reasons for the STEM Subjects Push
- 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.
- Experts in the technology industry believe that the shortage of STEM skills is akin to a national crisis. There aren’t enough pupils taking the subjects and there aren’t enough teachers available to teach them. 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.
- The digital world is disrupting every industry. Education delivery has to change to match our new digital driven world.
Some Facts About STEM Subjects and Careers
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 outlined how the new Attainment 8 score is calculated. All things being equal, a student who excels in STEM subjects is likely to have a higher Attainment 8 score than their peers. One reason is that Maths is double weighted. Also the pupil who excels in more than one science subject will probably have a better score than the one who excels in a single 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!
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. Not only will they not fulfil their purpose, the world won’t benefit from their amazing talent.
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
- the view that STEM careers are for males
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! To some extent we are all scientists by nature! However reduced experimentation diminishes our interest over time. What makes it worse is that a lot of schools package science subjects as mundane and theoretical.
10 Ways to Engender Interest in STEM Subjects
- 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. Sadly this would lead them to believe the same and diminish the opportunity to excel in it.
- Become more open to STEM subjects. Decide to learn the basics with your child and you’ll be amazed at what you gain. You can do this in a fun way by visiting engaging online tutors such as MathAntics on YouTube.
- Organisations such as Girls Guides and Boys Scouts provide stimulating opportunities for a child to explore the world around them. This helps develop more of an interest in STEM subjects; your child would most likely benefit from joining.
- Visits to Science Museums and/or Natural History Museums will increase your child’s curiosity and interest in science. You will also discover new things as a parent. Cost should not be an excuse as National Museums are free in the UK.
- Organisations such as TeenTech, Apps for Good and STEMettes are fantastic for secondary school-age children. They help them understand the opportunities in the STEM industries. STEMettes introduce young girls to female role models in STEM careers who mentor them. These organisations all have regular competitions often culminating in awards. They also have links to industry leaders and often arrange visits to workplaces. This helps the young people experience a day in the life of some of the technology careers. Click here for more on extra-curricular activities in general.
- Visit the Smallpeice website, they have a lot of Learn Through Exploration activities that your child will enjoy.
- Ask your child’s school if there are any creative projects that will encourage the children into STEM subjects. Check if you can 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. That way s/he can 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. Some 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.
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 will be much more technologically based! Adopt as many of the tips above as you can so your child is not left behind.