Teachers partly to blame for decline in Stem subjects, research claims

The TES is reporting research that suggests teachers are partly to blame for students turning away from maths and science as they progress through secondary school.  

Just one in 11 young people takes maths and physics at A-level – despite almost three-quarters of children leaving primary school expressing a high interest in science, new analysis from consultancy firm AT Kearney has found.

The “Tough Choices” report, commissioned by employers campaigning for a greater take-up in the subjects, has found that girls’ interest in maths and science dramatically declines by 74 per cent during secondary school, while boys’ engagement in these subjects drops by 56 per cent over the same period. 

Teachers have played a role in the “Great British science turn-off”, the report claims, by encouraging only the “ultra-bright” students to take Stem (science, technology, engineering and maths) subjects at A-level…

The report concludes that the low uptake of science and maths beyond the age of 16 reflects “apparently rational decision-making”, which it claims is “ill-informed and harmful”.

It says: “Many teachers and parents push students to prioritise good grades and as a result steer them away from Stem [and] students say they listen to this guidance.”

The report recommends that teachers and parents should change the message from “it’s hard” to “you can do it” by shifting the focus from “getting high grades irrespective of subject to a balanced view of subject content, subject mix and likely exam performance”…

More at: Teachers partly to blame for decline in Stem subjects, research claims


The full article suggests other factors at play too (I can’t find the original report online at the moment), but what do you say to the suggestion that teachers are putting students off Stem subjects?

Please share your reactions and feedback in the comments or via Twitter…


Do teachers too often dissuade students from taking stem subjects?

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Categories: Secondary and Teaching.


  1. swailesfrmwales

    SchoolsImprove teachers?!?! System that measures teachers teaching through results is to blame! 4 levels of progress dude! U0001f621U0001f621U0001f621U0001f621

  2. AlfredoNokez1

    SchoolsImprove My son did STEM subjects & I wish we had steered him away as his grades are lower than his friends. He’s demoralised by it.

  3. AlfredoNokez1

    SchoolsImprove Labour had a major strategy for STEM; Tories secretly believe scientists & mathematicians are born not made & don’t bother.

  4. newnortherner

    SchoolsImprove our local high does plenty of STEM but kids love it and give up language to take another science. Penalised on EBAC score.

  5. ddubdrahcir

    KalwantBhopal Hmm, thus ignores cultural and policy factors which have been shown to have strong influence on pupils and teachers.

  6. Jperry145

    KalwantBhopal MarkRPriestley It seems we’re to blame for everything else so one more thing want make much difference #recruitmentcrisis

  7. mskingneeparkin

    AlfredoNokez1 SchoolsImprove It’s so hard, because as a parent I now know there’s more to life but at the time, grades were everything.

  8. KalwantBhopal

    EDUstudies Jperry145 ddubdrahcir Stop demonising teachers and blaming them for the failures of a boroken educ system.

  9. At A Level, STEM subjects are not just more difficult than non-sciences, they are ‘without exception the hardest of all A levels’.
    That was the conclusion of a 2008 (admittedly a bit old now) study about the relative difficulty of A level subjects.  http://www.score-education.org/media/3194/relativedifficulty.pdf
    While school performance tables list the proportion of pupils in a school who achieve at least ‘AAB or higher’ in two ‘facilitating subjects’, then schools will persuade pupils to enter the easier of these subjects.
    At the same time, there’s a shortage of STEM teachers particularly in Physics.

  10. It’s a pity that STEM education at 6th-form is in academic subjects such as physics and biology.  So much better if it were related to real-life such as engineering or medicine/nursing.
    Abstract science ideas need to be linked by analogy to concrete experience.  This is one reason so many students struggle with STEM – they don’t have the concrete experience/knowledge.

  11. Poor careers education and guidance results in pupils not having the skills to research career openings linked to various subjects.  The emphasis in CEG shouldn’t just be ‘What do I want to do?’ but ‘Where could these subjects lead me?’

  12. ChallenDr

    GeoffreyPetty I think also Geoff there is an element of poor career structure in science and job stability altho what is that in any area:)

  13. andylutwyche

    SchoolsImprove Not sure these findings could be any more patronising; maybe STEM subjects get difficult & many aren’t keen on the challenge

  14. andylutwyche

    SchoolsImprove Culturally we regard it as acceptable to admit to not being great at STEM; that may be the biggest issue, not teachers

  15. colin_lever

    SchoolsImprove The made Science compulsory on the school’s curriculum, to devastating effect. Look also at the drive for results

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