60% of young people aspire to work in business, but only 15% aspire to be a scientist (ASPIRES).
Not enough young people are choosing to study Science, Technology, Engineering and Mathematics (STEM) after the age of 16. There is also widespread concern that the profile of those who do go on to pursue STEM subjects and careers is too narrow – with women, working-class and some minority ethnic groups remaining under-represented.
ASPIRES 2, based at King’s College London, is the second phase of a ten-year study into the science, STEM and career aspirations of young people aged 10-18. Our longitudinal data, tracking students from primary school to further education, is helping us to understand the changing influences on young people’s science and career aspirations, and has a strong bearing on educational policy and practice – especially concerning the widening STEM skills gap and diversifying the STEM workforce.
The first phase of ASPIRES collected survey data from 19,000 10-14 year old students, in addition to in-depth interview data with selected students and their parents. We found that most young people, from primary through to secondary, find school science interesting. However, interest in science does not translate into post-16 participation and careers – with only 15% of 10-14 year olds interested in becoming a scientist. Indeed, our surveys showed that science and engineering aspirations are less popular than ‘business’, ‘design’ and ‘celebrity’. ASPIRES 2 has found that this trend continues as students get older; 58% of the 15/16 year olds we surveyed last year agreed that they learn interesting things in science lessons, but only 14% aspire to a career in science.
For our final cycle of data collection, we’re now looking for Year 12 and 13 students to pilot a 30 minute online survey on career aspirations. The results will then be used to develop a final questionnaire, to be used this autumn in schools across the country. Our final survey data will be the last stage of our research tracking 10-18 year olds in their attitudes towards science and STEM.
To be eligible, students:
• must currently be in Year 12 or Year 13,
• must be a current pupil at a school or college in England or Wales
• can be studying any combination of subjects (we are keen to understand the attitudes and experiences of students who no longer study science and STEM, as well as those who do).
We know that this is an incredibly busy time of year, so students can complete the survey in their own time as well as at school and it can be completed by as many/as few students as is feasible at your school. Student responses will be anonymous and no identifiable information will be collected from students or teachers. We hope to have gathered 200-300 responses from students in several different schools by mid-June.
If you are able to help with this research, the survey can be accessed here: bit.ly/ASPIRES2Pilot (this link is case sensitive, and can be copied or typed into a web browser on any device).
If you have any questions, before or after your students complete the survey, please contact us. If you or your school would like a report of the survey outcomes, please ask your students to state their school at the start of the survey. This information will not be used in any other way.