Interest in STEM subjects in decline amongst school children, suggests survey

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27th August 2019 15:10 - Engineering

Interest in STEM subjects in decline amongst school children: Over the past four years, children aged 9-12 years have been losing interest in science, technology, engineering and maths (STEM) - that's according to the latest research from the Institution of Engineering and Technology. 

The study found that the interest for science has dropped by 10% since 2015, with a decline also seen in design (12%) and ICT (14%). 

The research consisted of a survey as well as interviews and found that teaching these subjects in the allocated time they have to prepare for exams is a problem for teachers trying to engage students in the subjects. More than seven in 10 (72%) primary school teachers and 63% of secondary school teachers said that time pressures in teaching the full curriculum to children was one of the reasons for a declining interest in the subjects. Other factors cited included lack of equipment /resources (57%) disruptions in the classroom (42%) and a lack of interest in the subjects by pupils (42%). 

While there has been a decline in interest in STEM subjects, the survey revealed that more than half the children polled recognised that engineering was a skilled career. Two in five questioned said that engineering was 'difficult', 'creative' and/or 'important'. 

When asked how they might increase their education around science and technology children said they would like to go on more school trips, have visits in school from industry experts as well as the opportunity to attend technology clubs hosted by the school. 

Asking children aged 6-15 years about their favourite subjects, maths came out top one overall, however when broken down across genders, boys were more inspired by maths and ICT, while girls favoured English and art. 

Looking to the future and potential career choices, boys were found to prefer ICT, engineering, technology, sport, construction, property and public service, while girls showed interest in agriculture, arts, beauty, childcare, education, hairdressing and healthcare. Just 13% of girls said they would consider a career in engineering, with 11% saying they might like to work in technology - this is despite engineering being selected as the third most popular career choice overall and technology in fourth. 

David Lakin, IET head of education said: “It’s crucial schools engage children in STEM at a young age but we’ve discovered a lack of resource and mounting time pressures present huge difficulties in achieving this."

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