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GCSE and A Level results show decline in interest in STEM subjects

So how do we make students fall in love with these subjects again?

Safeera Sarjoo
27th October 2016
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Recent A Level and GCSE results revealed that fewer A* - C grades were achieved in computing, engineering, technology and math related subjects.

Subjects synonymous to the STEM industry suffered heavily with only GCSE students receiving some of the worst results in history. An estimated 0.9% of student received an A* in engineering, whilst 0.7% achieved top marks in Science.

One would think that these results would be of concern to those already within the industry, however professionals have said that despite the bad results achieved at GCSE level, it’s encouraging to know that students are taking these subjects in the first place.

‘Today’s GCSE news revealing a huge rise in pupils studying computing is no doubt welcome news for a number of technology related industries,’ Kirill Slavin, UK general manager at Kaspersky Lab, said. ‘This is particularly the case for cybersecurity – a sector that is crying out for greater access to skilled computer science graduates to fill an existing skills gap that is predicted to reach critical levels over the next five to ten years.’

Slavin’s response when it comes to the lacklustre results shows a somewhat forgiving attitude and suggests that even with poor grades, the emphasis is ensuring students are choosing these subjects to study.

‘Due to the speed that our industry moves at, it’s crucial we give students a firm foundation in IT and computing, especially when we already have an industry-wide skills gap,’ Darren Norfolk, UK managing director of Rackspace, said.

Bridging the skills gap is a huge challenge the entire industry faces, however this starts with ensuring that students’ progress with appropriate grades. Only 5.7% of students that studied computing at GCSE achieved an A* and maths only say 2.3% of students awarded an A* - C grade.

Professionals within the industry are keen for us to continue encouraging students to take STEM related subjects, however we do need to address the issue of raising the percentage of students who are achieving higher grades.

What are educators and teachers doing to ensure that students who take these subjects are walking away with the very best grades they can achieve?

Bhuwan Kaushik, CEO of Spectromax, has suggested more activities outside of school that are tech focused so that students – and the UK – are not left behind and remain competitive.

‘We need more IT programmes outside of school and university, and better opportunities for one the job IT training too,’ he explained.

It doesn’t just stop at GCSEs though. AECOM, the infrastructure firm, has been analysing school data and revealed an annual growth of 0.61% when it comes to the number of entries into STEM related A Level subjects.

Given that 182,000 workers are needed with engineering skills, it’s clear to see that we’re producing a severe shortage of engineers in the UK. AECOM have stressed the importance of students studying STEM subjects as A Levels aren’t just crucial for degrees and the industry, but for alternative routes into the sectors like apprenticeships.

Educators face a challenge to identify ways in which to not only make these subjects digestible for students but to find effective methods that will ensure continued interest and curiosity to explore beyond what they’re taught.

At the same time, the industry must play an active hand in creating and promoting the rewards people can revel in if they step into professional roles. It’s important that young people’s interests are reflected in the industry and that businesses align themselves with the next generation in order to tap into the very best talent.

The only way students can really see the full scope of what technology and engineering can achieve is to show them. If we have the ability to, then why not rethink the way we teach students? Why don’t we rethink the way we get students to interact when it comes to these subjects and show them just how far their interests can take them.


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