Ministers urged to do more to tackle inequality in Stem

MSPs ‘concerned’ by evidence that teachers and parents are paying for Stem resources

Ministers urged to do more to tackle inequality in Stem

The Scottish government has been urged to tackle inequality following a parliamentary report into science, technology, engineering and maths (Stem) education.

The publication, made available today from the Scottish Parliament’s Education and Skills Committee, which has been investigating Stem in early education, said more needed to be done to reduce the effects of gender and financial inequality on the standard of learning across the country.

The committee's convener, SNP MSP Clare Adamson, has called on the Scottish government “to do more” to study how effective measures to promote Stem in schools have been.

Related: How can we get more girls into Stem?

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While highlighting some positive work in promoting scientific and technological learning across the country, the report made 22 separate recommendations for improvements.

The report, discussing gender inequality in the take-up of Stem subjects at school, found a "whole school or whole early learning" approach was needed to counter the "ingrained pattern of early stereotypes limiting people's aspirations and informing future career decisions and attitudes".

It also noted concerns that parents were being called on to fund activities, and that teachers and staff were paying for resources out of their own pocket.

The committee is calling for a 2014 research study into the funding of science in Scottish schools to be re-run, with support from Education Scotland to increase the sample size. It is also calling on Education Scotland – via the inspection regime – to ensure that schools have the “apparatus and technology to deliver Stem learning experiences”.

The committee, for instance, suggests that Stem learning experiences are being limited by the standard of internet connectivity in schools across Scotland.

Last year, schools and teachers were advised by Education Scotland to deal with sexist language in the same way that they would racist or homophobic speech, in a bid to address gender bias in schools.

The guidance – produced as part of the Improving Gender Balance Scotland – also warned schools against relying on one-off events to tackle gender bias, such as an annual “girls into science” intervention.

Ms Adamson said: "We heard so much about the innovative and fantastic work being done by leaders in our schools and communities to grow Stem skills among our young people.

"These are skills which will become evermore critical as we enter the fourth industrial revolution, which will see massive technological changes affecting changes to work and employment in the future.

"To ensure our young people are equipped with the skills of the future, we want the Scottish Government to do more to measure the effectiveness of the strategies in place, such as the Stem strategy."

Ms Adamson added: "But measurements alone are not enough. We need systemic change to address the continued disadvantage that exists, as identified in the committee report.

"We need inclusive economic growth – the fourth industrial revolution will provide so many opportunities for our young people and they need the skills to take up these opportunities."

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