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Attracting a wider range of people to STEM careers

Despite huge investment aimed at engaging more young people with science, technology, engineering and mathematics (STEM), there are notable inequalities in participation in terms of gender, ethnicity and socioeconomic background at every stage of the post-16 education pipeline.

Attracting a wider range of people to STEM careers

Through the ASPIRES2 project, led by Professor Louise Archer and her team at UCL Institute of Education, over 40,000 young people have been surveyed to better understand why some people engage with science and others do not. 

Their research has revealed the barriers to science participation, which includes inequalities of gender, ‘race’/ethnicity and socio-economic background, as well as the way in which school science can make it hard for many young people to continue with science.  

Louise and her team developed the concept of science capital, which has gone on to inform the policy and practice of numerous organisations who work to increase and widen participation in STEM.

It has informed a new teaching approach for schools and out-of-school organisations which helps them engage students by relating science to their everyday lives. This new understanding of issues, research and resources has been described as ‘revolutionary’ and it is helping to shape educational practice in over 18 countries already. 

Fewer than 10% of life science professionals and just 6% of doctors are currently from working class backgrounds in the UK. The Science Capital initiative is expected to have a huge impact for widening participation in STEM. It could also help to improve social mobility, by supporting more young people from disadvantaged backgrounds to enjoy more meaningful science education, STEM-rich active citizenship and continue into science-related careers.

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