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☰ Mark Malley's Blog: STEM Subjects

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Mark Malley’s Blog: STEM Subjects

Posted on March 20 2015

There is rarely a month that passes without reference being made in the press to STEM (Science, Technology, Engineering and Mathematics) subjects– whether it’s a reminder of the shortage of scientists, engineers, technologists and mathematicians; a lack of graduate uptake for STEM- related degrees; or the need to recruit more teachers to teach STEM subjects. Companies are talking about them, too. Just a couple of weeks ago, global giant Siemens announced it was championing STEM subjects via a new school engagement programme designed to spark the interests of young people. 

So why is there such a high level of discussion around these subjects in particular? Put simply, STEM subjects play a key role in building a country’s competitive advantage in a global marketplace and, according toEngineeringUK, around 1.86 million jobs in engineering alone will need to be filled by 2020, so it’s important we pay attention to the points being raised.

In his 2007 “Race to the Top” Review, Lord Sainsbury stated that a country’s innovation rate depended on inter-linked activities, with education forming a very important piece of the innovation jigsaw. Here at Bellevue Education, our schools play a key role in instilling a love of learning from an early age, developing in children the desire to explore, to question and to broaden their interests in all the subjects they are taught.

We recognise the part we play in igniting interest in STEM-related subjects and our schools regularly use a range of techniques to create highly memorable and stimulating learning experiences which resonate with pupils long after the activities have taken place.  Brabyns Prep School, for example, recently organised for children aged three to eleven to take part in The hour of code, a one-hour introduction to computer science, with the aim being to empower the children and encourage them to take an active interest in the subject.  Similarly, as part of National Science Week 2015, Edenhurst Prep School held a school-wide STEM event, which involved all children, from Nursery to Year 6, taking part in tasks and challenges to demonstrate their knowledge and understanding in each of these areas.

In addition to raising interest in the STEM subjects, encouraging pupils to consider STEM-related career options presents another key challenge.  According to Lord Sainsbury’s Review, “good careers advice is critical in order for pupils to be able to understand the opportunities available to them and to raise their aspirations.” At Bellevue Education, we introduce children to a range of career ideas from an early age. Activities such as “What’s my job?” afternoons where professionals such as biochemists and marine engineers come in to talk to the children and introduce them to careers they’ve never heard of before, help raise awareness of the diverse range of career options available long before they make decisions regarding which courses to study at A-Level and degree (watch a video of a “What’s my job?” event in action, here).

Initiatives such as these are vitally important, but it’s the enthusiastic teachers who are passionate about their subject area and who inspire the children, that are the key ingredient for success in any given subject. As you will see from the video about Science at Edenhurst Prep School, providing practical, hands-on experiences makes learning more stimulating and meaningful, instilling in children the desire to want to learn more.

Whilst schools cannot address the skills shortage alone, instilling a love of learning from an early age plays a significant part in equipping our pupils, regardless of their future career pathway, with the STEM knowledge and skills they need to become well informed citizens in an increasingly scientific and technological world. 

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