TES talks to… Maggie Philbin

It’s not children, but parents that need convincing of how Stem can open up a world of opportunity, the TeenTech co-founder tells Richard Webber in The TES.

I’m frequently asked to give ‘inspiring talks’ to students,” says Maggie Philbin, one-time Tomorrow’s World presenter and current CEO of TeenTech. “But I would rather talk to parents [and give] students ongoing experiences with people from industry instead. Most parents want the best for their kids but many have outdated ideas on ‘safe’ careers.”

“There has always been a tendency to encourage boys to pursue engineering and technology subjects; even at home, parents can unknowingly inhibit girls’ educational growth in this area,” she explains.

Philbin is doing her best to change the status quo. In 2008, she co-founded TeenTech, which organises interactive science, technology, engineering and maths initiatives for teenagers, helping them to appreciate the career opportunities available in those fields. 

“We need to change people’s perceptions of the kind of roles that society still sees as being male,” says Philbin.

“Teachers are very familiar with the university route because most would have followed that path, but they’re less familiar with apprenticeships and the strong opportunities in these areas, which don’t necessarily preclude a degree qualification,” argues Philbin. 

Philbin is also adamant that schools need to be much better at understanding and showcasing to girls the breadth of opportunities available from having studied Stem subjects, and how qualities they might already possess could be applied in different areas.

“All teachers have a responsibility to understand where their subject can be used within the various industries,” states Philbin. “Language teachers, for instance, could alert students to the possibility of applying their skills in cybersecurity.”

“Room needs to be made within the already jam-packed school timetable for teaching what are often referred to as ‘soft skills’, but which I call ‘core skills’: the ability to work in a team, communicate, be a bold and creative thinker, show attention to detail and be resilient. I know that won’t be easily achieved and something else will have to give, but these skills can be delivered as part of a subject, whether that’s maths, computer science, Spanish, geography or history.”

“I know it can be daunting to think that we have millions of kids to reach, but if we don’t start somewhere, we won’t get anywhere. We owe it to everyone to get it right.”

Read more TES talks to… Maggie Philbin

Do you agree that targeting parents could help introduce more girls to STEM subjects? Or do teachers have to more responsible for encouraging and showing girls the opportunities that STEM subjects can bring? Please tell us your thoughts in comments or on Twitter ~ Tamsin

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