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Engineering needs to be promoted more effectively at schools, says IMechE

School students have little exposure or understanding of engineering, which is leading most to choose subjects which effectively rule out this career path early in their schooling, according to a report from the Institution of Mechanical Engineers.

The report – We think it's important but don't quite know what it is: The Culture of Engineering in Schools – says that, although students have a vague sense of engineering’s value, its low visibility in schools means they do not feel informed or confident enough to consider it as a future career. The report also notes that teachers and career professionals lack the time, knowledge and resources to communicate the breadth of career opportunities to students.

Peter Finegold, the IMechE’s head of education and skills, said: “The report’s findings show positive attitudes and appreciation of engineering among students, parents, teachers and school governors alike. However, few schools are integrating engineering into their teaching and the wider school culture. This is undoubtedly detrimental; not just to the future of pupils in these schools, but also to UK society more generally.”

The report, the third in a series in which the IMechE looks at engineering in schools, calls for the Government to rethink how engineering is presented to future generations, especially girls.

“This lack of exposure to engineering has led to students developing a vague and incoherent understanding of the profession, its career opportunities and what it does for society,” said Finegold. “We accept that Government is unlikely to change the curriculum fundamentally or introduce engineering as a standalone school subject. Therefore, we recommend that the socially beneficial, problem-solving aspects of engineering are integrated into the existing curriculum, particularly in science and technology subjects, enhancing young people’s exposure to engineering and its world-changing potential.”

The report has nine key recommendations:

  • Government should establish a working group of leading educationalists and other stakeholders to examine innovative ways in which engineering can be integrated into the curriculum;
  • Government to appoint a National Schools Engineering Champion to provide an effective communication channel between schools, Government and industry;
  • National Education Departments to advocate curricula that reflect the ‘made world’ to modern society, including reference to engineering in maths and D&T;
  • National Education Departments to promote a problem based approach to learning;
  • Schools to appoint an Engineering and Industry Leader within their senior leadership team;
  • Schools to appoint an Industry School Governor to support the Engineering and Industry Leader and embed employer relationships within the school;
  • Schools to implement a robust careers strategy, using benchmarks set out in the Gatsby Foundation Good Career Guidance;
  • The engineering community to agree a unified message about engineering, stressing creative problem-solving and the social benefits of the profession;
  • The engineering community to provide students with the opportunity to take part in activities that explore the political, societal and ethical aspects of technology.

Finegold concluded: “As 2018 has been designated the ‘Year of Engineering’, with support across five Government departments, we believe it is time Government, as part of its future industrial strategy, ensures engineering is placed at the heart of our education system.”

Author
Graham Pitcher

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