Teach engineering to primary pupils, new report says

Because technology now dominates our lives, the Institution of Mechanical Engineers is calling for the school curriculum to be adapted

Adi Bloom

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Primary pupils should be taught about the manufactured world alongside the natural world, a new report recommends.

It also suggests that pupils should be taught about engineering from primary school onwards.

The report Big Ideas: the future of engineering in schools, published today by the Institution of Mechanical Engineers, aims to ensure that more pupils are encouraged to consider a career in engineering.

Peter Finegold, its lead author, said that schools need to adjust to a new reality, in which technology dominates most spheres.

Informed choices

“We need to stop talking about the skills gap, and start taking action to ensure that we give children and students the best chance to make informed choices in our technological society,” he said.

“The best way to do this is to change the stories we tell about engineering, and to make the subject more visible throughout school.”

The report also calls for secondary pupils to be taught a broad curriculum until they are 18.

“This would mean pupils wouldn’t have to make decisions to give up subjects before they really knew what they were,” Mr Finegold said.

“Early specialisation routes young people into either arts or sciences too soon, and prevents many from considering engineering study or training before they’ve encountered it.”

Creative learning

The report calls for the curriculum in science, technology, engineering and maths (Stem) subjects to shift increasingly towards problem-based teaching. And design and technology lessons could be used as a way of combining Stem subjects with more creative learning.

But it also recommends that universities should offer more flexible entry requirements for engineering courses. This would ensure that a broader range of sixth formers would be able to consider a career in engineering.

“Not only would this boost the number of people who might consider engineering as a career, but it would also encourage other creatively minded people into the profession,” Mr Finegold said.

Janet Clark, education policy adviser for the ATL union, welcomed the call for a broader curriculum and for real-life application of classroom knowledge.

But she said: “There are other problems associated with a lack of young people entering the engineering profession, including a shortage of physics teachers.”

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Adi Bloom

Adi Bloom is Tes comment editor

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