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Encouraging female students to take STEM subjects at A level

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Encouraging female students to take STEM subjects at A level

Posted by SRVerwey on Jan 19, 2020 8:44 pm

Hi!
I’m Steph and I’m a Sixth Form student who plans to pursue a career in engineering.
 
As the only (out of about 40 students total) female physics or further maths student in my Sixth Form, I am keen to encourage more GCSE students to take science subjects at A level. Speaking to some of them, a lot of them do not believe they are intelligent enough, even the top students in the class.
I am currently volunteering to help out with science lessons once a week but want to do more.

Does anyone have any ideas about how to encourage more students (particularly female students) to take science subjects at A level?
Thanks for any suggestions!

Re: Encouraging female students to take STEM subjects at A level

Posted by Susan Twelves on Jan 20, 2020 9:21 am

Why don't you contact your local STEM Ambassador Hub and see if they can give you some suggestions. 
They might be able to send some Ambassadors along to talk to the girls.

Re: Encouraging female students to take STEM subjects at A level

Posted by SRVerwey on Jan 24, 2020 3:53 pm

Thanks for the response! I’ll see if I can do that.

Re: Encouraging female students to take STEM subjects at A level

Posted by Arran Cameron on Jan 26, 2020 2:21 pm

There are times when I wonder whether concerns about the lack of female students taking STEM subjects, as well as initiatives to encourage more to take them, verge on so called positive discrimination or even political correctness.

At my college there were considerable disparities between the types of students taking different A Level subjects. Electronics was extremely male dominated, computing considerably so. At the same time the number of south Asian students studying a European foreign language was next to nothing and only a small handful studied history with most of them proposing to take a degree in law. South Asian students possibly outnumbered white British students in chemistry as many of them proposed to take a degree in medicine or pharmacy whereas English literature, and psychology were almost completely white British and heavily female dominated.

There probably are good reasons deep down why students of different backgrounds or genders are attracted to or repulsed by particular A Level subjects. Unlike at GCSE level I'm not certain whether changing the course curriculum or style of assessment will have much effect at attracting students who previously wouldn't have considered them.    

Re: Encouraging female students to take STEM subjects at A level

Posted by Arran Cameron on Jan 28, 2020 12:46 pm

It has to be taken into account that most people pick A Level subjects either because they have a specific use for them or else because they don't have an idea what they want to do in life and just happen to enjoy them or are good at them.

I'm inclined to say that a higher proportion of students who take (two or more?) STEM subjects are taking them for the purpose of future employment than students who take arts, humanities, and soft subjects.

Perhaps large numbers of female students cannot find any good uses for STEM subjects in relation to their future career and life. My mother has 3 science O Levels but she did not study the same subjects at A Level. She did however take computing at A Level despite not having studied the subject at O Level. It was her third subject where mathematics and history were also considered.

Re: Encouraging female students to take STEM subjects at A level

Posted by Andy Millar on Jan 28, 2020 9:19 pm

Arran Cameron:
There are times when I wonder whether concerns about the lack of female students taking STEM subjects, as well as initiatives to encourage more to take them, verge on so called positive discrimination or even political correctness.

Yup, they do. When a society has had a few thousand years of political incorrectness it's going to take a bit of effort to correct it. It's a PID control system, to correct an error it can require increased drive to overcome the inertia in the system. The clever bit is calibrating the system so that the effort reduces as the system approaches the set value to prevent overshoot.

Figures from 2016 are here https://www.jcq.org.uk/Download/examination-results/a-levels/2016/entry-trends-gender-and-regional-charts-gce-2016 A pretty appalling waste of potential talent in the physics and computing figures - and indeed in the arts, sociology, psychology and communication studies figures. Attitudes and expectations are changing, but still very slowly. So let's not be ashamed of trying to knock this bonkers idea out of court that "girls can't do tech" or (maybe even insidious) "girls don't want to do tech". Make people unwelcome and they'll feel unwelcome, and when that bias exists throughout society it takes considerable extra effort to make the affected group feel welcome instead. 

Good thing is that I've noticed that in the actual world of professional engineering there is a huge and healthy generational shift in attitude. So I'd always recommend that girls take up actual placement in engineering companies rather than taking any notice of the attitudes on engineering forums! 

Thanks,

Andy
Andy Millar CEng CMgr IET Mentor / IET PRA uk.linkedin.com/in/millarandy

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