A total of 69% of teachers and 56% of students agree that STEM subject curriculum is too hard and takes up too much time, while 83% believe that work experience should be embedded in second level education, research reveals
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A total of 69% of teachers and 56% of students agree that STEM subject curriculum is too hard and takes up too much time, while 83% believe that work experience should be embedded in second level education, research reveals.

Participation levels in these subjects have stagnated


Research by Accenture in Ireland has highlighted that, although importance has been placed on STEM learning in schools in recent years, participation levels in these subjects have stagnated.

The research titled ‘What Now for STEM?’, which surveyed teachers, students and parents across the country, points toward the need for an improved approach that sees business and education work together to improve STEM participation.

L-R: Tom McMahon, maths and chemistry teacher, Firhouse Community College; Shalini Hollingum, product manager, Accenture in Ireland; Alastair Blair, country managing director, Accenture in Ireland; Safiya Truchet, Saint Maria College, Ballyroan, Dublin; Paula Neary, managing director and STEM sponsor at Accenture in Ireland; Martin Wells, managing director, eir Business; Aine Lynch, chief executive, National Parents Council Primary.

The research points to a consensus on the importance of STEM learning in schools, however confusion about the implementation and long-term career benefits is undermining participation in these subjects.

A key finding in the report is the need for a better understanding of STEM-driven jobs in the classroom through work experience and schools partnering with companies.

Joe McHugh TD, Minister for Education and Skills, said: “The Accenture research has rightly pointed to the need for schools and industry to build closer links in order to show young people the huge possibilities in store for them if they focus on STEM.

“That is why I recently announced new, formal guidelines on how schools and businesses can work hand in hand to highlight the massive opportunities, some of which are on the schools’ doorsteps.

“This type of engagement is happening up and down the country at a local level but we need to see more formal ties between the office and the classroom to show young people how great the potential is in STEM.”

Paula Neary, managing director and STEM sponsor at Accenture in Ireland, said: “Like a lot of people working in STEM related businesses in Ireland, I have first-hand experience of the exciting careers at the leading-edge of science and technology that this country has to offer.

“Our 2019 STEM research, which is the fourth in the series of Accenture’s STEM research, suggests though that the wide array of interesting and exciting career opportunities are not resonating with students or teachers in secondary level education.

“It is disappointing that students are unaware of the amazing career opportunities on their doorstep, but I am encouraged by their appetite to learn more about STEM careers through work experience.

“The research points to three key areas for improvement: the teaching of STEM subjects; making the benefits of a career in STEM more tangible and; bridging the gap between classroom and the workplace. We believe that Government and industry can work together to ensure the best outcomes for future generations.”

STEM teaching


Despite incentives to increase STEM subject participation, the Accenture research highlighted a difficulty in teaching the subjects felt by both teachers and students in secondary school, pointing to a need to introduce STEM earlier, in primary school, before disengagement takes hold.

  • When it comes to primary schools, a little more than seven in 10 (72%) teachers and almost 3 in 5 (58%) parents would like to see a greater emphasis on STEM subjects.
  • Despite the bonus points for Higher Level Maths, up to 70% of teachers believe that students are most likely to drop Higher Level Maths, with other STEM subjects such as Physics, Applied Maths and Chemistry following a similar fate.
  • Similarly, 69% of teachers and 56% of students both agree that STEM subject curriculum is too hard and takes up too much time.
  • While teachers understand what STEM subjects are, only 23% of teachers claim that they are ‘very confident’ in teaching STEM subjects.
  • Gender imbalance remains an issue as well, with little or no change in the number of girls taking on and pursuing STEM careers.

Promoting benefits of STEM subjects


The research findings point to an information gap between subject choice in school and how that subject may influence career path. Work needs to be done in promoting the career opportunities that studying a STEM subject in school opens.

  • 86% of teachers agree that students would be more likely to study STEM subjects if they would be more aware of the career or jobs paths available to them.
  • 86% of students believe that work experience will help them in understanding their career opportunities, and 83% believe that work experience should be embedded in second level education.
  • About two-thirds of teachers (61%) and parents (66%) feel that students are not given enough information on potential careers while in school, and this is reflected in students first choice career plans, where STEM subjects fall behind Teaching/Education (20%), Arts (13%) and medicine (10%).
  • 69% of students believe that their subject choice in school may have a big impact on their final career, but crucially, more than half of students (54%) do not think that they’re being taught the correct subjects to succeed in the workplace.

Bridging the gap


The research results point to a need for initiatives that can help STEM students narrow the margin between the classroom and the workplace.

L-R: Alastair Blair, country MD, Accenture in Ireland; Safiya Truchet, Saint Maria College, Ballyroan, Dublin; and Paula Neary, MD and STEM sponsor at Accenture in Ireland.

New guidelines recently launched by the Department of Education and Skills to help schools and industry build deeper ties in relation to STEM subjects is a very welcomed step to kick-start engagement and develop long-lasting and sustainable partnerships.

The following recommendations came through in Accenture’s latest STEM research:

  • Inspire students through awareness of leading-edge STEM jobs in Ireland.
  • Empower teachers through STEM training and practical experience.
  • Formalise STEM work experience in Transition Year.
  • Focus on collaboration skills and diverse thinking.
  • Focus more on primary where STEM disengagement takes hold.
  • Catch gender imbalance earlier because STEM disengagement is embedded among girls in secondary school.

Accenture in Ireland is actively involved in a number of industry programmes, including the STEM Teacher Internship.

What started as a collaboration between Accenture, Dublin City University, 30 per cent Club Ireland and CWIT has now become a powerful programme providing student teachers with real-life experience working in industry.

https://www.engineersjournal.ie/wp-content/uploads/2019/12/a1-29-1024x683.jpghttps://www.engineersjournal.ie/wp-content/uploads/2019/12/a1-29-300x300.jpgDavid O'RiordanNewsAccenture,education,STEM
A total of 69% of teachers and 56% of students agree that STEM subject curriculum is too hard and takes up too much time, while 83% believe that work experience should be embedded in second level education, research reveals. Participation levels in these subjects have stagnated Research by Accenture in Ireland...