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Young adults place less importance on STEM subjects

11 March 2015

An IEEE survey, conducted by YouGov, reveals twice as many 'millennials' as 'baby boomers' say they don’t think it’s important to teach STEM at school.

According to a survey of consumers conducted by YouGov for the IEEE, fewer ‘millennials’ (aged 18-34 years) think it’s important to teach STEM (science, technology, engineering and mathematics) subjects at primary and secondary school than do ‘baby boomers’ (aged 51-69 years) despite them growing up in an age shaped by technology.

Among US respondents, 7 percent of the younger age group said they didn’t consider any of the four core subjects important to teach compared to 3 percent of the post-war generation. The contrast is even more stark among millennial respondents from Great Britain with 4 percent not valuing the subjects compared to 1 percent of their older counterparts. The online survey, conducted in late December 2014, questioned over two thousand adults in each country.

From the majority that do believe in the importance of the subjects, in both nations and both age categories, the importance of mathematics was stressed by more than any other subject - in the UK, 82 percent millennials, 92 percent baby boomers; in US 75 percent millennials, 88 percent baby boomers.  Engineering was considered important by the least number of people (in the UK 46 percent millennials, 51 percent baby boomers; in US 42 percent millennials, 46 percent baby boomers).

These results follow a report from Engineering UK that states the UK does not have either the current capacity or the rate of growth needed to meet the forecast demand for skilled engineers by 2020.

The relative importance attached to the teaching of each of the STEM topics by the two GB and US age groups was:

- Engineering: GB (46 percent millennials, 51 percent baby boomers); US (42 percent millennials, 46 percent baby boomers
- Mathematics: GB (82 percent millennials, 92 percent baby boomers); US (75 percent millennials, 88 percent baby boomers)
- Science: GB (76 percent millennials, 79 percent baby boomers); US (68 percent millennials, 80 percent baby boomers)
- Technology: GB (65 percent millennials, 76 percent baby boomers); US (60 percent millennials, 66 percent baby boomers).

IEEE held similar research with MRSSIndia in India. There, 99 percent of the total base of over 1,000 adult respondents thought it was important to teach all subjects with science rating highest followed by mathematics then technology, with engineering rated last.

Les Hunt
Editor


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