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The Barriers: Why Students Lose Interest in STEM

Motivating young peoples’ interest in STEM education and careers is a multi-layered process

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Motivating young peoples’ interest in STEM education and careers is a multi-layered process – and a crucial starting point is at school. Research tells us that young people’s engagement in STEM subjects tends to decline between the ages of 11 and 14, typically when they start secondary school.

To tackle this issue, all stakeholders need to act on many different fronts. Together – education, industry and government – we need to do more than just stimulate children’s interest in STEM subjects. We need to help young people understand how applying STEM subjects, together with students’ own competencies and imagination, can help shape the world. They need to believe in their own power to create and to innovate.

Through Create Tomorrow, our activities focus mainly on secondary school students. In most European school curricula, this is the age range when students start to choose the subjects they may want to study further in the future. This is an important time to help enhance young people’s perceptions about STEM, especially for girls.  

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STEM SUBJECTS ARE DIFFICULT

Many young people still see STEM subjects as difficult, unattractive and unrewarding.

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PERCEPTION OF STEM CAREERS

There is a lack of understanding of career prospects and the significant socioeconomic impact they can have. Often, STEM subjects and careers are labelled as “geeky” or for “nerds”.

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HOW STEM SUBJECTS ARE TAUGHT

Teaching students about the various real-life applications of STEM helps them determine if it’s an ideal career choice to study. STEM teaching is often dominated by a theoretical approach, instead of through more practical and experiential learning.

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GENDER STEREOTYPING

Gender stereotyping and bias behaviours around STEM are common in the classroom, and many young people think STEM subjects are more suited to boys than girls.