A new report out of the United Kingdom — the UK 2020 Educational Pathways into Engineering — has found that despite much progress, students’ across all grade levels understanding of engineering is still lacking, with 42% of boys and 31% of girls reporting that they are not prepared to pursue a career path in engineering.
The report also found a severe lack of STEM educators throughout all levels, and that colleges have great difficulty finding qualified STEM professors to hire.
Additionally, the report found an urgent need to create pathways for groups that are underrepresented in STEM. Black students in the UK are 2.5 more likely more likely to be in lower levels of math than their white peers, the study found.
Despite a higher number of minority students entering STEM education, only 73% of those with a minority ethnic background received a first or upper second degree, while 83% of their white peers did receive one.
These findings mirror similar problems in the U.S., where Black students are less likely to enroll in advanced STEM courses at the high school level, or major in STEM degrees later in college, and where only 18% of Black students and 28% of Hispanic students score at or above average on STEM standardized tests, compared to half of white and Asian students.
The COVID-19 pandemic, which has caused schools to shut down, is amplifying the problem in both countries, since many underrepresented students are unable to access resources that allow them to adequately learn remotely from home.
“We need to work together to understand what causes under-representation of certain groups of young people progressing into engineering and how to tackle it at every stage,” Hilary Leevers, Chief Executive of EngineeringUK, told New Civil Engineer. “We will need to: improve knowledge of engineering through the curriculum; support teachers and schools to deliver high-quality STEM education and careers guidance, and ensure that our education system is fit to cultivate the skills needed for the UK, now and in the future.”
TryEngineering has a collection of resources for teachers to encourage students to explore STEM. With lesson plans, games, and more available, see what tools you can use today.