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What Now For STEM - Accenture in Ireland

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The 2019 Accenture in Ireland, What Now For STEM?, report shows there is a welcomed consensus about the importance of learning STEM subjects in schools, but confusion about its implementation and long-term life benefits. The report points to the need to bring a better understanding of STEM-driven jobs
into the classroom. Read our findings in the full report here.

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What Now For STEM - Accenture in Ireland

  1. 1. 1WHAT NOW FOR STEM? WHAT NOWFOR STEM?
  2. 2. 2 WHAT NOW FOR STEM? Report reveals more students would take STEM subjects if they understood the career opportunities The2019AccentureinIrelandWhatNowForSTEM?reportofteachers,studentsand parentsshowsthereisawelcomedconsensusabouttheimportanceoflearningSTEM (Science,Technology,EngineeringandMathematics)subjectsinschools,butconfusion aboutitsimplementationandlong-termlifebenefits.Thisdisconnectisundermining STEMparticipation. Surveyrespondentsrevealproblemareas,buttheyalsooffercluesastohowSTEM engagementcouldbeincreased:studentsidentifyworkexperienceasthewayto appreciatethecareeropportunitiesavailabletothem;teachersandparentswouldlike schoolstopartnerwithcompanies. BothpointtotheneedtobringabetterunderstandingofSTEM-drivenjobsintothe classroom,theskillsthatcontributetoanIrisheconomyfuelledbyforeigndirect investment,thepresenceofsomeofthelargesttechnologyandpharmaceutical companiesintheworld,andstrongindigenousfirms. Threeearlier‘GirlsinSTEM’reportsbyAccentureinIreland(2013,2015,2017)have exploredchallengesinpersuadingfemalestudentstoparticipateinSTEMsubjectsand ultimatelySTEMcareers.Theproblem,however,isnotconfined togender. SUMMARYFINDINGS
  3. 3. A 2016 report from the STEM Education Review Group (STEM Education in the Irish School System, November 2016) highlighted a shortfall: “The overall levels of performance and engagement in STEM subjects are not good enough if we aim to provide the best for our nation’s children, and if we wish to sustain our economic ambitions for the future”. Three years on and challenges remain. While there has been a significant increase in the uptake of Higher Level Maths since the introduction of bonus points in 2012, the number of students taking other STEM subjects has not moved as much (Education Indicators for Ireland, October 2019). It states the percentage of sixth year students taking one or more STEM subjects, excluding Maths, has not significantly changed among girls (86.1 percent in 2014 / 85.8 percent in 2018) or boys (91.8 percent in 2014 / 90.7 percent in 2018). There are signs of improvement among girls taking one or more subjects, excluding Maths and Biology (36.3 percent in 2014 / 39.5 percent in 2018), but overall numbers are still low. The National Council for Curriculum and Assessment (NCCA) is in the final phase of identifying areas for further development in senior cycle education, including Transition Year, Leaving Certificate Applied, Leaving Certificate Established and Leaving Certificate Vocational Programme. The impact of 40 chosen schools rolling out Computer Science as a Leaving Cert subject is also being assessed. Key findings in this report suggest that all of these initiatives will be vital in making STEM participation in schools more effective. “ The overall levels of performance and engagement in STEM subjects are not good enough if we aim to provide the best for our nation’s children, and if we wish to sustain our economic ambitions for the future”. STEM Education Review Group, 2016
  4. 4. 4 WHAT NOW FOR STEM? CHALLENGESINTEACHING STEMSUBJECTS: Students are most likely to drop out of Higher Level Maths, according to 70 percent of teachers. Many teachers expect other STEM subjects to suffer similarly: Physics (50 percent), Applied Maths (44 percent), and Chemistry (41 percent). Teachers say the reasons for high dropout levels are because the subjects are too hard for students (69 percent) and take up too much time (44 percent); students agree that they are too hard (56 percent) and nearly a third say difficulty arises from how they are taught. Almost 9 in 10 (86 percent) teachers agree that students would be more likely to study STEM subjects if they knew what career or job prospects they might have at the end. Teachers (61 percent) and parents (66 percent) think that students are not given enough information about their potential future careers when they are in school. New STEM jobs are absent from students’ first-choice career plans— Teaching/Education (20 percent), Arts (13 percent) and Medicine (10 percent). Careers guidance in schools is a missed opportunity. Only around a quarter of students (24 percent) consider career guidance counselling influential when choosing subjects. 01 02 CHALLENGESINREALISING STEMBENEFITS: 56% Students agree that STEM subjects are too hard. 86% Teachers agree that students would be more likely to study STEM subjects if they knew what career or job prospects they might have at the end. Ourreportrevealstwofundamentalchallengesthat needtobeaddressed:
  5. 5. 5WHAT NOW FOR STEM? Elements of all of these initiatives are already happening. Accenture in Ireland is actively involved in a number of programmes, including the STEM Teacher Internship. What started as a collaboration between Dublin City University (DCU), 30% Club Ireland and CWIT —with Accenture working in partnership from the initial pilot—has now become a powerful programme run by the DCU Institute of Education. As well as partnering with progressive organisations that are challenging gender imbalance, including I WISH , Accenture is an active collaborator with the Irish Business and Employers Confederation (Ibec), which has been preparing Ireland for workplace change and a new era of jobs through its Smarter World, Smarter Work campaign. Partnership and collaboration, spanning public and private sectors, will be key to unlocking the challenges to STEM participation revealed in this report. Research results point to the need for initiatives that can bridge the gap between classroom and workplace: students through awareness of leading-edge STEM jobs in Ireland teachers through STEM training and practical experience gender imbalance earlier because STEM disengagement is embedded among girls by secondary school. INSPIRE EMPOWER CATCH Launch of the STEM Teacher Internship Programme with Dublin City University STEM work experience in Transition Year FORMALISE on collaboration skills and diverse thinking and more on primary where STEM disengagement takes hold FOCUS
  6. 6. 6 WHAT NOW FOR STEM? INTRODUCTION:TIMEFORCHANGE ByPaulaNeary,ManagingDirectorandMDSponsorSTEM,AccentureinIreland Like a lot of people working in STEM-related businesses in Ireland, I have first-hand experience of the exciting careers at the leading-edge of science and technology that this country has to offer. While the relentless pace of change makes it hard to know exactly what future jobs will look like, we can take comfort in the fact that Irish-based companies—multinational and indigenous— will play host to many of them. Our 2019 STEM survey suggests that this isn’t being picked up in secondary level education. While it concerns me that many school students are unaware of the amazing job opportunities on their doorstep, I am encouraged by their appetite to learn moreabout STEM careers and that work experience is something they actively want. This looks like one way to bridge the gap between STEM learning and STEM careers. While engagement in STEM needs to start at primary school, inspiring students through awareness of STEM jobs is something that sits naturally in Transition Year, before the intense curriculum-driven learning of the Leaving Cert cycle kicks in. It’s already happening in many schools, but a more formalised approach will be needed to achieve the maximum impact and increase the number of students taking STEM Leaving Cert courses and degrees. Accenture has been running three one-week Transition Year internships for a number of years, inviting students into our offices to get a flavour of the work we do. The feedback we’ve had is steering us towards a more formalised approach to the programme which we plan to develop further in 2020. Another path to STEM careers is through apprenticeships. Accenture works closely with FIT (FastTrack to IT), sponsoring apprentices to undertake paid work experience as part of ICT Associate Professional, the new National Apprenticeship Programme for people wanting to pursue a career in Ireland’s technology sector. We also run ReSUME, a four-month ‘returnship’ programme where professionals who have taken a career break are provided with four-month paid work placements to support them return to work. Back in school, empowering teachers through training and practical experience is another way to address some of the challenges in the current system. We believe that the STEM Teacher Internship programme has the potential to be a game-changer if we can scale the programme and involve more companies—Claire and Tom’s experiences (see Teachers Benefit from Work Experience) give an insight into how it has directly informed their teaching techniques. Another aspect of this report that Accenture has experienced through our approach to recruitment, is the importance of students entering the workplace with a broad set of skills. As jobs change, we see a greater need for STEAM, putting the ‘A’ for Arts into the mix. It’s interesting that this is reflected in the report.
  7. 7. 7WHAT NOW FOR STEM?
  8. 8. 8 WHAT NOW FOR STEM?
  9. 9. 9WHAT NOW FOR STEM? There is a high level of agreement between teachers (82 percent) and parents (85 percent) that there should be a more rounded focus on education. Science and the Arts should never be considered mutually exclusive. Graduates in Arts and Humanities bring a different set of skills to problem solving that we value in Accenture, and we have no doubt that jobs in the future will continue to benefit from a mix of skills, including critical thinking and analysis. This is the fourth of Accenture in Ireland’s STEM reports and the first not to focus exclusively on gender. I wish that this was because the problems have been solved—they haven’t. Little has changed in the number of girls taking STEM subjects and pursuing STEM careers. Once again, all the evidence points to a need for earlier intervention, going right back to primary school to change mindsets. As someone who graduated with a Bachelor of Engineering, one of only 10 percent of women in my year, I am disappointed that the numbers remain roughly the same. This matters because diverse teams with a good gender mix will develop more innovative ideas. Accenture’s 2019 Getting to Equal report shows employees’ willingness and ability to innovate is over six times higher in Irish companies with a robust culture of equality, where everyone can advance and thrive, than in less-equal companies. Finally, this report is a constructive attempt to advance the Department of Education and Skills’ mission “to provide students in Ireland with a STEM education experience of the highest international quality.” This is a big and difficult task that many developed countries are struggling with. Our report highlights challenges which the Department will be familiar with, but it also shines a light on solutions, primarily the importance of educating teachers, students and parents on the synergy between STEM subjects and the exciting STEM careers available to young women and men in Ireland. The challenge is not just formalising initiatives that can bridge the STEM gap but delivering them in a scalable way that can make a real difference. This is why collaboration with industry will be important. Working together, public and private sectors have an opportunity to make Ireland a world-leader in STEM participation, which will be a stimulus to the economy and to the personal development of our citizens. 85% Parents believe that there should be a more rounded focus on education. ““As someone who graduated with a Bachelor of Engineering, one of only 10 percent of women in my year, I am disappointed that the numbers remain roughly the same. This matters because diverse teams with a good gender mix will develop more innovative ideas.” Paula Neary Managing Director, Accenture in Ireland
  10. 10. 10 WHAT NOW FOR STEM? Promoting STEM in schools is seen by Government as a way to create a talent pipeline to support Ireland’s economic development, a big challenge compounded by fast-changing industries. A World Economic Forum report, The Future of Jobs and Skills, says 65 percent of children entering primary school today will ultimately end up working in completely new job types that don’t yet exist. While it’s impossible to second guess the exact requirements for unknown jobs, there is consensus on a need to foster curiosity and problem-solving skills among students, and to increase the participation of women in fields where they are under-represented. This report shows that the current STEM education experience needs to be revisited and improved. No cohesive connection is being made between bonus CAO points for studying STEM subjects and pursuing STEM-driven careers. Uptake among girls has barely changed. Among the cohorts of this report—stakeholders in schools where programmes have been implemented—the acronym is not entirely understood. While 9 in 10 (89 percent) teachers claim to understand what STEM subjects are, awareness levels are lower amongst parents (74 percent) and secondary school students (72 percent). There is a need for universal clarity on what STEM encompasses, and crucially, what it can deliver. Almost 9 in 10 (86 percent) teachers agree that students would be more likely to study STEM subjects if they knew what career or job prospects they might have at the end of it. The majority of parents and students (65 percent) felt the same. Just over half of students think 17-18 is an acceptable age to make career decisions (54 percent) and most believe the subjects they choose have a big impact on their final career (69 percent). But just over half (54 percent) don’t think they are being taught the right subjects to succeed in the workplace. The majority of students are choosing subjects with careers in mind, but the subjects are not necessarily STEM-related. REPORTREVEALSGAPBETWEENSTEM STRATEGYANDEXECUTION 86% Teachersagreethatstudents wouldbemorelikelytostudySTEM subjectsiftheyknewaboutfuture careerorjobprospects 54% Students think 17-18 is an acceptable age to make career decisions 69% Students believe the subjects they choose have a big impact on their final career 54% Students don’t think they are being taught the right subjects to succeed in the workplace
  11. 11. 11WHAT NOW FOR STEM? Bonus points have increased the number of students taking STEM subjects, particularly Higher Level Maths, but there is a caveat. They might take the courses but they won’t always complete them: 7 in 10 (70 percent) teachers claim that students are most likely to drop out of Higher Level Maths; Physics (50 percent); Applied Maths (44 percent); and Chemistry (41 percent). Biology is the next most studied STEM Leaving Cert course after Higher Level Maths, more a reflection of its perception as the easiest science subject than a reflection of STEM success. None of this appears to have impacted on a broad acceptance of the way STEM is incentivised in schools. Almost the same cohort of teachers (66 percent), parents (69 percent) and students (66 percent) think that the allocation of extra points for STEM subjects at Leaving Cert is just right. Almost two thirds (65 percent) of secondary school teachers claim that they are “confident” in teaching STEM subjects, but less than a quarter (23 percent) would claim that they are “very confident”. They believe the main reason students are not studying STEM subjects is because they are too hard (62 percent). MostImportantSubjectstoStudy inSecondarySchool Teachers Parents Students Maths 75% 67% 63% 47% 30% 32% 37% 34% 26% 20% 25% 29% 14% 12% 17% 15% 8% 17% 21% 13% 9% 12% 14% 6% 3% 12% 1% 5% 85% 73% 57% 51% 24% 42% 39% 38% 41% 34% 40% 15% 15% 33% 28% 36% 28% 23% 16% 24% 19% 10% 5% 10% 6% 5% 6% 65% 38% 37% 25% 24% 24% 24% 19% 18% 15% 13% 12% 11% 10% 10% 9% 9% 9% 7% 6% 6% 3% 3% 2% 0% 12% English Business History Irish Biology HomeEconomics Geography Engineering Accounting Economics Art Music Chemistry Construction Religion Physics French AppliedMaths German Technical Drawing Spanish Classical Studies Italian Agricultural Science Agricultural Economics Other What subjects do you think are most important for students to study in secondary school?
  12. 12. 12 WHAT NOW FOR STEM? Thechallengeof careerclarity While there is broad acceptance of prioritising STEM, there is little evidence in schools of any correlation between STEM courses and students choosing STEM-driven careers. When students were asked about career plans, choices were largely traditional. Teaching/Education, Arts and Medicine are the most desired areas to work in after school/college, with students wanting to work in areas they enjoy or find interesting. Over half of teachers (55 percent) and parents (56 percent) want to increase the focus on STEM in schools, but only a third (33 percent) of students. This may be because they are unsure of the benefits. The report reveals a need to educate students more on their options for future careers. While they feel “informed” (70 percent), the proportion who feel “very informed” is quite low (21 percent). Teachers are less likely to feel that students are informed about the choices and skills which lie ahead (59 percent). 55% Teachers want to increase the focus on STEM in schools 56% Parents want to increase the focus on STEM in schools
  13. 13. 13WHAT NOW FOR STEM? AreaMostDesiredtoWorkin AfterSchool/College Teaching/Education 20% 13% 10% 9% 7% 5% 5% 4% 3% 3% 3% 2% 2% 1% 1% 11% 5% Arts Medicine Business Sciences Law Computer Science Physical Education Music Design Aviation Engineering Nursing Veterinary Medicine Architecture I Don’t Know Other When you finish secondary school or graduate from college, what area do you want to work in?
  14. 14. 14 WHAT NOW FOR STEM?
  15. 15. 15WHAT NOW FOR STEM? 86% Students believe work experience is a great way to help understand career opportunities 53% Teachers think STEM subjects will open up well paying career opportunities for students Almost one in four Irish parents (24 percent) feel “very informed” and 48 percent “fairly informed”, a significant improvement from our 2015 report, where just one in seven parents felt “very informed” about career opportunities. Parents are also more likely to identify how STEM subjects lead to well-paying jobs (64 percent) and exciting career opportunities (65 percent) than teachers. Report feedback suggests exposure to work experience would give cohorts a clearer understanding of how STEM skills translate to jobs. Almost 9 in 10 (86 percent) students believe work experience is a great way to help understand career opportunities—a big increase from the 2017 report (59 percent). Most think (83 percent) they should have some experience under their belt before they leave secondary school. A quarter of teachers believe partnership with companies would increase participation in STEM subjects. An appetite for real-world experience mirrors a lack of confidence in careers advice. Just over 6 in 10 (61 percent) teachers think that students are not given enough information about future careers when they are in school, with two thirds (66 percent) of parents feeling the same way. Teachers are mostly clear in their understanding of the transferrable skills that STEM subjects provide: improving problem-solving skills (85 percent); making them more innovative/creative thinkers (68 percent); improving their decision making (59 percent). Just over half (53 percent) thought it would open up well paying career opportunities for students; less than parents (64 percent) but much more than students (35 percent).
  16. 16. 16 WHAT NOW FOR STEM? Introduceearlylearning opportunities When it comes to primary schools, just over 7 in 10 (72 percent) teachers and almost 3 in 5 (58 percent) parents would like to see a greater emphasis on STEM subjects. Thought leaders in this report (see STEM Learning: The Earlier the Better) draw on other research to make the point that a failure to instil STEM thinking at an early age—preschool and in parenting— is the fundamental reason why participation is a problem in secondary level and beyond. The way STEM is taught in primary, however, has to be different from secondary. More rounded STEM skills were valued by teachers rather than their connection to specific careers. This aligns with the wider remit of STEM policy: “Stimulating curiosity and fostering a sense of wonder are essential elements of educating our students from the earliest years” (STEM Education in the Irish School System, 2016). In the report, teachers thought that the ability to solve problems, teamwork and creativity should be studied more. Nearly half thought there should be more science. Computing ranked lowest among teachers. It’s a topic that divides parents. Just over half of parents claim that they would you like to see more technology used in primary school education, but just over 2 in 5 are concerned that their children already spend so much time online/on screen that any increase in school might be a pitfall. Teachers are very clear on the role of primary schooling in the education cycle, that first and foremost it’s a stepping-stone towards secondary education. The majority believe that what a child studies in primary school will have an impact on what they might study in secondary school (84 percent) and what they might study in college (61 percent). Over half (53 percent) believe that the subjects studied in primary school have a big impact on future careers. 72% Teachers would like to see a greater emphasis on STEM subjects
  17. 17. 17WHAT NOW FOR STEM? SubjectorAreasTeacherswouldliketo seestudiedmoreinPrimarySchool Which subjects or areas, if any, would you like to see children study more of in primary school? Ability to Problem Solve Teamwork Creativity Strong Work Ethic Science General Internet Awareness Public Speaking Languages Prioritisation of Tasks Time Management Arts & Humanities Computer Programming/Science Other 84% 63% 53% 48% 47% 45% 42% 39% 34% 28% 24% 22% 2%
  18. 18. 18 WHAT NOW FOR STEM? Genderimbalance continues The notion that STEM-related careers are mostly for males is largely dispelled by all cohorts in this report, although attitudes around engineering still exhibit male bias. Attitudes may be changing but there’s still a problem. The Education Indicators for Ireland report, published in October 2019, shows that the number of females taking STEM subjects has barely altered since 2014. The widely held belief that earlier intervention would increase female participation needs to be developed, because our report results paint a picture of career- focused young women at secondary school who are not particularly interested in STEM. They already have an idea of what college course they want to take (80 percent) and they are choosing the subjects they are best at (65 percent). When asked what they considered the most important skills for the future, they prioritised Communication (26 percent) and Technology (18 percent). Advanced Maths was bottom (1 percent), even lower than engineering (3 percent). Science fared better (11 percent), the same as Languages. Females are highly engaged in speaking to people about their future career prospects (78 percent) – Mother (70 percent) followed by Friends (52 percent) and Guidance Counsellors (51 percent). Father (44 percent) and Teachers (32 percent) were less sought after for advice. The report also shows that females are very inspired by role models (85 percent), which suggests exposure to more women in STEM jobs might influence career plans and go some way, along with an increased focus in primary school, to increase awareness of college and career opportunities. 85% Females are very inspired by role models
  19. 19. 19WHAT NOW FOR STEM?
  20. 20. 20 WHAT NOW FOR STEM? The experience of Firhouse Community College, a Dublin secondary school, mirrors findings from the Department of Education and Skills (Education Indicators for Ireland, October 2019), which shows that the uptake of STEM subjects is not increasing. “We’ve had a similar number of boys taking STEM courses and the number of girls hasn’t increased significantly,” said Senan Nolan, Principal. “The numbers aren’t changing to any real level which is disappointing.” He knows first-hand how more effective ways of teaching can make a difference. When the school upgraded the Design and Communication Graphics room with cutting-edge computers there was a spike in numbers taking the Leaving Cert course, but he believes a better understating of STEM careers is needed to affect greater change. “Transition Year is the best place to do it. Once students go into fifth year and start their Leaving Cert, it’s very pressurised. It’s a busy two years and there isn’t space there for a lot of timeout,” he said. Like a lot of schools, Transition Year work experience at Firhouse is highly varied. Motivated students who land proper internships tend to get the most out it. “Some come back from an area they thought were interested in and know now that it’s not for them; others have discovered absolutely what they want to do,” said Senan. “We had one boy recently who worked in an IT department for a week, had a very positive experience and now has a career direction in mind.” Some students spend their Transition Year work experience placements in what really are part-time jobs and gain little from the experience. Each year Firhouse will have around 140 students looking for local work and competing with other schools in the area. “Organised students will get the best places and the less organised and less confident students tend to leave it to the end and have more limited choices,” he said. Career Days are another way that the school introduces students to possible jobs, where past pupils come in and show them where education choices can lead. Senan also welcomes a revival in apprenticeships, which were largely wiped out during the last recession. “They are absolutely needed. We are operating on the idea that one glove fits all, that everybody stays on in school, but the vast majority of pupils are taking a fairly academic Leaving Cert that doesn’t suit all of them,” he said. “More practical courses would be really helpful.” Senan also backs the STEM Teacher Internship programme undertaken by one of his staff, Tom McMahon (see Teachers Benefit from Work Experience). “It’s useful and a good way to go,” he said. “Someone could go through school, go to college, decide they want to do teaching, do the training and then they’re back in school. If they haven’t had summer jobs, they will have no experience of another world outside of school. That has to be limiting.” “ MORECAREERENGAGEMENT NEEDEDATSECONDARYSCHOOL InterviewwithasecondaryschoolPrincipal “We are operating on the idea that one glove fits all, that everybody stays on in school, but the vast majority of pupils are taking a fairly academic Leaving Cert that doesn’t suit all of them. More practical courses would be really helpful.” Senan Nolan Secondary school Principal Firhouse Community College, Dublin
  21. 21. 21WHAT NOW FOR STEM?
  22. 22. 22 WHAT NOW FOR STEM? Launched in 2016, the STEM Teacher Internship programme has so far provided 54 trainee teachers with work experience lasting three months in some of Ireland’s leading companies, including Accenture, Intel and Microsoft. Developed at Dublin City University’s Institute of Education, in collaboration with CWIT and 30% Club Ireland the goal is to provide teachers with first-hand experience of STEM careers in industry. Before taking up her first job, teaching first class at Pelletstown Educate Together National School in Dublin, Claire O’Halloran spent three months in Microsoft’s headquarters in Dublin. She got to work for the first time in a modern office environment where employees hot-desk and use screen-based technologies for every type of task, from setting up meetings to coding. “Microsoft really opened my eyes,” she said. “I knew it would be tech-savvy but not to the level I experienced.” Claire’s two big takeaways were the importance of collaboration and communication in the way teams worked. She brought a pared-down version of what she experienced to a classroom project where nine-year-olds set about designing a game. One was assigned the role of timekeeper, another was the designer, and a third was put in charge of quality checking to make sure it worked. “You have to be taught how to work in a team,” she said. “We are preparing children for the workplace not just getting them through the school year. There is lots of focus on the curriculum and getting it done, but I believe that transferable skills—writing reports, interpreting different kinds of data—are the most important skills, and you don’t need a laptop to do them.” Our report reveal an appreciation for exactly what Claire was teaching. Communication and collaboration were ranked by teachers as the first and second most important skills of the future. Technology came in third. Exposure to Microsoft technology, specifically dictation tools, has enhanced Claire’s teaching techniques. “I realised how much I could use dictation with children who have literacy difficulties,” she said. “If they are not able to write a story, it may be a barrier to learning, but they might be able to tell it to you.” The intern experience has convinced her that showing children what adults do in their jobs would be of enormous benefit. “I don’t want to teach STEM for the sake of it; I want to be able to show what can be achieved with it,” she said. “I’d like to see people with STEM backgrounds come into the classroom and let children see where it can lead. An optician, for example, could show how they use science in their jobs.” TEACHERSBENEFITFROM WORKEXPERIENCE Interviewswithtwoteacherswhohavecompletedthe STEMTeacherInternshipprogramme ““You have to be taught how to work in a team. We are preparing children for the workplace, not just getting them through the school year.” Claire O’Halloran, Pelletstown Educate Together National School
  23. 23. 23WHAT NOW FOR STEM?
  24. 24. 24 WHAT NOW FOR STEM? “ TellingSTEMstories intheclassroom Before taking up his secondary school post as a Maths and Chemistry teacher at Firhouse Community College in Dublin, Tom McMahon worked for three months in Accenture as part of the STEM Teacher Internship programme. As part of a research and development team, he was involved in validating the strengths and weaknesses of new technology and attending weekly stand-up meetings where they would discuss their challenges. “It was a very positive experience and I got lots of transferrable skills that I have been able to bring to the classroom,” he said. The big thing that it inspired him to do, almost on a daily basis, is to tell stories that connect what he is teaching his students with real-world scenarios. “Giving them ‘live’ examples, as opposed to pointing at something in a book, helps to embed what we’re teaching,” he said. Environment is everything, according to Tom, so it helps if someone in the family or even a neighbour has the kind of job that echoes something they are being taught. If they can’t find a STEM connection that way, it’s up to him in the classroom to make one. After he introduces a new topic, he opens it up to the students and asks if they can think of how it might be used, then he gives examples. It only takes a few minutes but it contextualises the application of STEM in the workplace and makes it more than part of the curriculum. “With something I’m teaching in statistics, for example, you might look to explain how banks could use it,” he explained. “Or it might be geometry in writing a computer game or in the design of an aeroplane wing. It might be a particular skill that someone is using down the corridor in the woodwork department. It all helps to make the subject more accessible.” “It was a very positive experience and I got lots of transferrable skills that I have been able to bring to the classroom. Giving them ‘live’ examples, as opposed to pointing at something in a book, helps to embed what we’re teaching.” Tom McMahon Teacher, Firhouse Community College, Dublin
  25. 25. 25WHAT NOW FOR STEM?
  26. 26. 26 WHAT NOW FOR STEM? A combination of research and personal experience has convinced two of Ireland’s leading STEM advocates that a bigger focus is needed on primary school education. As the Executive Dean of the DCU Institute of Education, and former Chief Executive of the NCCA, Anne Looney is constantly looking at ways to improve teacher education. She believes learning in the early years is particularly underserved when it comes to STEM. “The Government likes to introduce a lot of STEM in Transition Year and encourage more students to study Leaving Cert STEM courses, but I have a firm belief that it’s way too late,” she said. “You have got to get kids much earlier and you’ve got to put really good teachers in front of them.” The teacher part is crucial, according to Anne. Pupils need someone at primary school with a STEM mindset who can help them begin to look at how science, technology and engineering impacts everyday life. “If an 8 or 9-year old girl or boy has a teacher who is enthusiastic, excited and curious about STEM, it could be a game changer. We tend to worry too much about what school to send our children to. It’s the quality of the teacher, not the school, that makes the difference.” Part of her remit is to oversee the STEM Teacher Internship programme (see Teachers Benefit from Work Experience), exposing future teachers to how STEM subjects and industry connect. She believes the programme could enhance a child’s primary school experience in particular. “We have a great early years curriculum with a real focus on exploration and discovering the world, but it’s too early to ‘schoolify’,” she said. “If you can persuade a primary teacher who teaches everything to the student to have a STEM mindset, to begin to look at how science, technology and engineering impacts everyday life, you will grow that child’s sense of curiosity and willingness to explore.” Everyday engagement with simple science is a missing piece even in a child’s early life, according to Áine Lynch, Chief Executive of the National Parents Council (Primary). She is looking beyond State-structured education to early parenthood and the child’s pre-school experience. “We are very good at messaging parents around literacy and reading to children but we don’t pay any attention to the science world around babies – something as simple as the bubbles in a bath. We don’t support parents to engage in conversations around everyday things and label them as science,” she said. “We do it really well around literacy and need to have the same intentionality around science.” By the time they get to school it should be about engaging with science in their real world, not something that’s abstract and separate to them. Áine described how a child’s appreciation can be deeply affected by different teachers: the one who does practical and fun experiments will engage children much more than someone who takes it from a text book and asks the class to write it up. “ STEMLEARNING:THEEARLIERTHEBETTER InterviewswiththeExecutiveDeanoftheDCUInstituteofEducationand theChiefExecutiveoftheNationalParentsCouncil(Primary) “The Government likes to introduce a lot of STEM in Transition Year and encourage more students to study Leaving Cert STEM courses, but I have a firm belief that it’s way too late.” Anne Looney, Executive Dean of the DCU Institute of Education
  27. 27. 27WHAT NOW FOR STEM? “Young children align with science because they like exploring and are inquisitive. To miss the opportunity at primary, and suddenly be expected to learn Physics at 13 is a big leap,” said Áine. “Children are naturally inquisitive; it’s the teacher’s job to encourage that.” She thinks it would be good for children to hear about different work experiences from trips out and people coming into the classroom, but not in a careers way. It should be about stirring their imagination and making connections with science rather than connecting with jobs. “If we can spend more time trying to engage children and young people in the subject itself, and how it links to their real world, then I think the careers connection will come in the future,” she said. The time may also be right to revisit the idea that primary schools have one generalist teacher who teaches everything. “There are lot of good things in the class/teacher model that young children need around nurturing, but it doesn’t mean to say we couldn’t bring more expertise in or even look internally,” she said. “Primary schools have groups of teachers who could specialise and rotate. You would tap into their areas of interest rather than force specialisms on them.”
  28. 28. 28 WHAT NOW FOR STEM? Entire industries have been wiped out; long established business models overturned. In this context, the career choices of students in our report look quaint. They are also at odds and disconnected from the lives that young people are living outside of school, where screens, apps and social media play a part in almost everything they do. They effortlessly connect and communicate in a web-powered world that is largely absent in their career choices. There is further disconnection inside the classroom. It’s not that students don’t appreciate the importance of STEM subjects—research results suggest they do – but they are not sure why they are important. Worse, they are not enjoying them. When asked what criteria influenced subject choice, enjoyment came out top (61 percent). And we know that they are not choosing STEM subjects in any significant numbers despite the best efforts of the Department of Education and Skills to promote them. The report shows a need to bring STEM subjects alive and make them engaging and enjoyable for students from a very early age. At primary school, this is about problem solving and analytical interpretation, transferable skills not anchored to subjects or jobs. It’s about empowering teachers to inspire young children. Áine Lynch described it as encouraging a child’s natural inquisitiveness with practical and fun experiments, rather than textbook-driven study. This is also the time to address the STEM disengagement that’s embedded in many girls by the time they attend secondary school. Conclusion WHAT NOWFOR STEM? Educationisnottheonly sectorstrugglingtokeep upwithtechnologicaland societalchangethathas broughtdisruption tobusinessesand everydaylife.
  29. 29. 29WHAT NOW FOR STEM? At secondary school, when college and career choices loom on the horizon, it’s time for more exposure to what STEM subjects can lead to. There is consensus that Transition Year provides the best opportunity to have meaningful workplace experiences, but as Principal Senan Nolan points out, it’s not a level playing field and is disproportionately dependent on the student (or their parents) having the initiative to find a decent placement. Such a key window for work experience should be afforded more formal structures to maximise the opportunity. Transition Year may be the most obvious point in the education cycle to explore STEM-related careers, but there are others. The good news is that many of the mechanisms for improving STEM participation in schools are already in place, albeit unstructured and underutilised. It is exciting to hear how the STEM Teacher Internship programme has helped Claire and Tom’s teaching techniques; the way they are discretely introducing facets of the working world into the classroom. There are seeds here that need to be cultivated and allowed to grow. The good news is that many of the mechanisms for improving STEM participation in schools are already in place, albeit unstructured and underutilised. Working together, the public and private sector have an opportunity to put it right and achieve the goal of the Department of Education and Skills: to provide a STEM education experience of the highest international quality.
  30. 30. 30 WHAT NOW FOR STEM?
  31. 31. ResearchMethodology Research was conducted through three bespoke online surveys across teachers in primary and secondary schools (183), parents with children in primary and secondary school (150) and secondary school students between 16-18 years old (193 – 103 females/90 males). Fieldwork was conducted from October 4-18, 2019. Notes 30% Club is a global campaign group of Chairs and CEOs taking action to increase gender diversity on boards and senior management teams. CWIT (Connecting Women In Technology) is a network of women from tech companies in Ireland, which aims to attract and retain women to the tech sector. I WISH is an initiative to inspire, encourage and motivate young secondary school female students to pursue careers in STEM. FastTrack to IT (FIT) is a not-for-profit, industry-led organisation that promotes an inclusive smart economy by creating routes to marketable technical skills for people at risk in Ireland’s labour market. 31WHAT NOW FOR STEM?
  32. 32. 32 WHAT NOW FOR STEM? AboutAccenture Accenture is a leading global professional services company, providing a broad range of services and solutions in strategy, consulting, digital, technology and operations. Combining unmatched experience and specialised skills across more than 40 industries and all business functions — underpinned by the world’s largest delivery network — Accenture works at the intersection of business and technology to help clients improve their performance and create sustainable value for their stakeholders. With 492,000 people serving clients in more than 120 countries, Accenture drives innovation to improve the way the world works and lives. Visit us at www.accenture.com Accenture, its logo, and High Performance Delivered are trademarks of Accenture. Copyright © 2019 Accenture. All rights reserved. This report was printed using 100% post-consumer recycled paper. This document makes descriptive reference to trademarks that may be owned by others. The use of such trademarks herein is not an assertion of ownership of such trademarks by Accenture and is not intended to represent or imply the existence of an association between Accenture and the lawful owners of such trademarks.

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