Informatics' Equality and Diversity Blog

January 31, 2017

Learned Societies’ Group on STEM Education

Filed under: Encouraging STEM subjects,Policy — hwalker2 @ 5:07 pm

Prof Lesley Yellowlees 2The Royal Society of Edinburgh’s Learned Societies’ Group (LSG) has responded to the Scottish Government’s consultation on the draft STEM Education and Training Strategy, which closes today.

LSG is chaired by Professor Lesley Yellowlees, Head of our College of Science and Engineering (pictured).

Welcoming the Scottish Government’s commitment to STEM Education, the LSG stressed the need to ensure cohesion across all the relevant Government strategies and frameworks; including the STEM Strategy, National Improvement Framework, Making Maths Count initiative, Developing Scotland’s Young Workforce and School Governance Review.

The LSG advise that consideration should be given to the mapping of the range of STEM activity and engagement to support a better understanding of what is available and where, and, to identify duplication and/or gaps in provision and access.

While the draft sets out an extensive range of actions, identification of appropriate and measurable criteria for assessing progress will be central to realising the strategy. An implementation plan at a far more specific level of detail than that contained in the current strategy is required. It will need to make clear the success criteria, key timelines and staging posts, and who will be accountable for delivery.

Professor Yellowlees said, “A priority should be to ensure that young people look on STEM subjects as being for “people like them”. ASPIRES research shows that while most primary school age children like science, very few of them aspire to work in science. There is therefore a need to promote the message that STEM provides transferable skills that enable people to keep their career options open.”

The LSG urges the Scottish Government to be sensitive to the consequences and the messages sent to learners, parents and schools when prioritising literacy, numeracy, and health and well-being and not STEM subjects in the National Improvement Framework.

On the definition of STEM for the purposes of the Strategy, the LSG note that while the importance of Mathematics in underpinning STEM is clearly stated, using this as a definition of Mathematics is too limiting. Similarly, the strategy needs to recognise Computing Science as being distinct from the focus on digital skills. Both Mathematics and Computing Science should be reflected in the strategy as being disciplines in their own right.

With regards to the equity priority, the LSG is clear that gender stereotyping needs to be tackled across the whole school environment as responsibility for this does not rest solely with the STEM subjects. Importantly, it also extends beyond the issue of encouraging more girls into STEM.

The Strategy should also consider broader equity issues, including the participation in STEM of ethnic minorities and how geographical barriers to accessing STEM experiences can be addressed.

Theme: Rubric.