During research by MathWorks, STEM professionals were asked whether students are being targeted too late to develop a love of STEM subjects? The response was affirmative: half of respondents believe students need to be encouraged towards these sectors much younger than is conventional – at primary school. When asked to consider their own experiences, 40% said they were inspired to follow the subjects by their families and 19% knew they wanted to follow a STEM profession by the time they were 10 years old. 46% had made the decision by 16.
Questions then turned to who should do the encouraging? While typically this is expected to be the responsibility of the education system, a third of those surveyed claim that school encouragement wasn’t important in their decision to enter into their chosen occupation. And, despite half saying that the teaching of STEM related subjects has improved since they were in school, 38% argue schools aren’t producing people with the skills that society needs.
Most respondents agreed that the emphasis for turning out future STEM professionals shouldn’t be placed on educators alone and that families and the industry should take on a greater responsibility. Of those questioned, 60% fostered their passion for STEM outside of the classroom, having enjoyed extra-curricular activities like the Science Museum with their family.
In terms of what the STEM industry could do, nearly two thirds (63%) said employers should be hosting school visits – while 56% also believe they should be funding projects in schools.
MathWorks is a major sponsor of Mathematics: The Winton Gallery opening at the Science Museum in London on 8th December.