Careers: Why teachers should encourage students to study maths and science

Britain is facing a critical challenge. Science, technology, engineering and mathematics (STEM) subjects develop crucial skills for successful economic growth. But students across the country aren’t engaging with STEM subjects and numbers continue to decline every year. So, there’s a perfect storm on its way – demand for STEM skills is rapidly increasing, yet interest is declining. The STEM skills gap is a serious issue: 40,000 STEM jobs are being left vacant and just 19% of girls aged 18 opt for two or more STEM subjects at A Level. If this continues, there is a serious risk that Britain could restrict its own economic growth. This article looks at why the study of maths and science is so important and how teachers can encourage students to actively engage with these essential subjects.

Why is studying maths and science so important for Britain’s future?

STEM skills have never been so essential in our fast-moving digital world. Global businesses will continue to become more and more dependent on digital knowledge, where data analysis and computational skills are vital to keep up with the competitive global economy. Students who study maths and science will develop the core skills needed to thrive in our changing business world – and with these skills at such a premium, studying maths and science can lead to a wide range of exciting and progressive careers.

STEM education will help young people to play a full role in a society that will continue to be driven by technology. Children need to understand and embrace the complex technological world so that they can learn how best to manage its growth. On top of this, sustainability and how to care for our planet will be vitally important for our younger generations. In the future, today’s students will need to find solutions to tomorrow’s problems that we can’t yet imagine; STEM skills will be at the heart of those solutions.


Increasing STEM engagement – The Challenges

Despite the critical importance of mathematics and science, engagement with STEM subjects is declining fast. One of the challenges is that Britain’s schools need to recognise that STEM subjects such as technology are ever changing; teachers need to be given opportunities to regularly update their knowledge and stay on top of the rapid developments. Parents need to better understand the career opportunities that STEM subjects will offer their children, so that they can reinforce the importance of STEM education at home. Crucially, schools, colleges and businesses need to work together more closely – if businesses could visit schools and engage with students more often about the future opportunities open to them, young people could be genuinely inspired to opt for STEM subjects at A Level.

How teachers can encourage students to study maths and science

Teachers have a fantastic opportunity to engage children with STEM subjects, and there are plenty of excellent teaching resources available. Your Life provides an inspirational year-round campaign of activity that’s designed to connect students and schools with future STEM employers and careers. This includes teaching resources that will bring STEM career opportunities alive for young people across Britain. Toby Hicks, Communications Director at Your Life explains how this campaign helps students to engage with STEM subjects:

“At the moment, only one in four English secondary school students chooses two STEM A Levels and only one in 11 chooses Maths and Physics. One of the key reasons is that not enough teenagers realise the wealth of jobs opened to them, requiring a grounding in Maths and Science. The careers teens say they are most interested in are intimately connected with the world of STEM. For boys, their number one career choice would be to work in gaming, while girls say healthcare, both requiring STEM skills at their core.”

Other organisations are also doing their bit to reconnect students with the many and varied applications of STEM subjects in the job market. STEM Learning is one such, offering an extensive range of superb teaching resources, all linked to the curriculum.

It’s clear then that it’s important to make the connection between what students study in the classroom and the opportunities in the job market. Toby believes that by showing young people how what they study is connected to the things they are passionate about, teachers can make a difference in opening up their eyes to a world of exciting job opportunities.

STEM educational videos are ideal for engaging students to study maths or science. The BBC Active video Why Maths Doesn’t Add Up asks, can learning maths be fun? Oxford University’s Professor of Mathematics is passionate about his subject and has just two weeks to turn comedian Alan Davies into an analytically-minded mathematician. This video is an ideal opening for students who want a fresh look at why they should study maths.

Another excellent choice is High Anxieties: The Mathematics of Chaos. This inspiring video looks at the sheer power of mathematics and how it can completely change our perceptions. Thanks to fast developments in maths over the last century, our society has unearthed some harsh truths around our economy and climate. This is a great insight into how maths provides the ultimate power of knowledge, even when that knowledge creates far bigger challenges of its own.

Encouraging students to study maths and science needs to be a major educational priority. Through inspirational teaching resources and effective links between STEM subjects and careers, our youngest generations can engage with maths and science and learn the skills needed to thrive in our changing world. BBC Active Video for Learning provides a high quality and compelling range of educational videos that are designed to bring a wide range of topics to life. These videos are invaluable teaching resources to enhance your next class, lecture or workshop.