GCSE results reveal a considerable drop in STEM students this year

A range of subjects – including computing and physics – have struggled with GCSE enrolments in 2020

One week after the A-level fiasco, students across the UK are picking up their hard-earned GSCE results, but the data revealed this morning shows that STEM subjects haven’t fared well in the COVID-ravaged year of 2020.

According to this morning’s results, this year has seen a 2.1% decrease in the number of students pursuing computing at GCSE-level.

Science subjects have also taken a hit, with physics enrolments declining by 0.25%, biology by 0.04% and chemistry by 0.27%.

Considering that 103,485 more total students were sitting their GCSEs this year, this dwindling trend is significant, throwing the future of STEM subjects into question should this downward spiral continue.

The GSCE Science: Double Award, however, has seen a considerable surge, with a 4.63% rise in numbers of students pursuing the subject this year. In many schools across the country, this subject is compulsory if students choose not to take individual science subjects.

Maths has followed a similar path, surging by 1.97% in 2020; however, it must be noted that maths is a compulsory subject.

These figures are relevant for England alone, and the Joint Council for Qualifications (JCQ) is set to release the total UK and gender figures in the coming weeks.

“As if to counterbalance the fantastic news last week that the number of girls taking computing at A-level this year increased by more than a fifth, the GCSE results paint a very different picture. Despite a major drive to encourage younger students to pursue STEM subjects, there is a 2.1% reduction of all students that have taken computing this year,” said Agata Nowakowska, area VP EMEA at Skillsoft.

“There are increasing numbers of female role models who are demonstrating STEM subjects are not just for boys – from Countdown’s maths prodigy Rachel Riley, to the Oxford University vaccine team lead, Sarah Gilbert. Unfortunately, this isn’t enough; there is still far more to do in the classroom.

“Exam season has been an emotional rollercoaster this year – one that many students will not soon forget. However, today’s figures suggest a more long-term impact on the digital education of young people. Businesses are already struggling to find enough talent to close the digital skills gap and students will soon be entering one of the most competitive job markets in recent memory. Given STEM roles are predicted to double by 2028, the UK’s economic future lies in closing this skills gap; it’s crucial schools are equipping pupils with the skills they will need to be successful in the modern, digital workplace.”

In related news: 23% rise in female A-level computer science students this year


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