We need a better formula to engage girls with scienceMar 25, 2014
MY EYE was caught by a brief exchange in the House of Lords the other day. The LibDem peer Barioness Bakewell of Hardington Mandeville wanted to know what action the government is taking "to encourage more women and girls to take up science, technology, engineering and maths subjects".
The answer from the Education Minister, Lord Nash, explained that the government is putting significant amounts of money into STEM subjects and specifically into enticing good science graduates into teaching – the theory being that excellence in class will breed enthusiasm and understanding among students.
While heartily endorsing the sentiment, I think we need to look further to close the gender gap in this area.
Now one might think this is a global issue or even, heaven forfend, that girls just aren’t as interested in science as boys. Well, I can categorically state that that isn’t so.
The Organization for Economic Cooperation and Development (OECD – @OECD_Edu) reported last year that 15-year-old girls around the world, outperform boys in science… except in the United States, Britain and Canada.
Here are three highly developed countries which would regard themselves as being at the forefront of gender equality, let alone education, and they’re all bottom of the class.
I have to (like the politicians) declare an interest here. When I was at school and wanted to study Biology, Chemistry and Physics I was told to drop the last one because three sciences would be “too restricting.” Instead of Physics I was shoehorned into Home Economics.
Now I freely admit that had my drop sconesnever existed the world of culinary excellence would have coped but the repercussions in terms of the careers no longer available to me because of that simple choice were enormous. C
areers guidance needs to be smarter. It’s an area which is under-used and under estimated.
CBI President, John Cridland (@CBItweets and a former visitor to the College) last year described careers advice in schools as being on “life support” and failing to prepare students in any way for the workplace. No doubt there are many careers advisors in schools who do a wonderful job but provision is patchy at best and for girls in particular there needs to be greater emphasis on broadening outlooks rather than narrowing them.
You may inspire greatness.