What are the biggest issues in STEM education at present?
While a number of reforms have been made at Key Stage 4, including, most recently, major new National Curriculum GCSE content introduced in September for D&T, relatively little has been done in KS2 or KS3 for STEM subjects. It’s critical that young people are engaged at as young an age as possible, and more needs to be done to develop engaging STEM curriculum content for children of primary school and early secondary school age.
The content should also be interrelated, meaning projects and themes are connected and linked between primary and secondary education. Although general funding for STEM subjects needs to be increased to enable smaller class sizes and more effective access to new robotics, coding and 3D printing technologies, simply throwing money at the problem of low student engagement won’t solve it. There needs to be a strategy to capture the attention of pupils when they’re young and keep them hooked.
What are the most influential resources in addressing the issues in STEM education?
Businesses willing to work with schools are incredibly powerful resources. They provide context for a subject or topic and connect science and maths classrooms with the real world. Design & Technology departments will need to adapt or die. Although D&T departments are disappearing altogether in a growing number of schools – due in large part to Progress 8 and the focus on EBacc subjects – where the subject is done well students are flocking to it in droves.
You can’t expect students to remain engaged spending a year making coffee tables and toothbrush holders. New technologies have the power to capture young people’s imaginations and relate the subject to the world of tomorrow.
What developments in UK STEM teaching would you like to see in the next five years?
We need more businesses willing to play a role in education and leaders from those businesses willing to put in the time to help inspire young people. We also need open-minded, outgoing teachers who are willing to go out there and make these connections with industry while also embracing new coding, robotics, and 3D printing technologies in their classrooms to aid teaching and learning.
Alongside this, new STEM curriculum content also needs to be developed linking projects and themes from primary school right the way through to GCSE. Energies must now be focused on developing such content to grab the attention of students entering Key Stages 2 and 3. It’s too late to try to interest young people in STEM as they enter Key Stage 4.