From education to employment

Maths should be compulsory for all students up to the age of 18, says report

A report by The Lords Science and Technology Committee has called for immediate action to produce more high calibre science graduates, fundamental to secure the UK’s future economic growth.

The emphasis bears upon the lack of key skills students have in mathematics beyond the age of 16, taking on postgraduate degrees in science, technology, engineering and maths (Stem).

The report recommends maths should be made compulsory for all students after 16 years of age, to 18, urging universities to toughen their math requirements for entry onto Stem courses.

According to the committee, 20% of students embarking an engineering course at university do not have A level maths, and in biology that figure goes up to 70%.

Sue Ferns, had of research at the Prospect union, supported the committee’s findings of higher fees, lack of financial support and decline in oversea students.

Fern also stressed that the current climate of cost-driven closures, cuts and privatisations would not help to attract a new generation of scientists.

“If the government wants to maintain the UK‘s SET capacity then it has to put its own house in order,” she said.

“Actions such as closing down the Forensic Science Service, denuding the Ministry of Defence of civilian expertise and decimating the resources of Forest Research do not help. Seeing thousands of specialists losing their jobs does not send out the right message to future generations of potential scientists. Yet science, research and innovation are vital to the UK‘s economic growth.”

Prospect has been calling for a single body to provide real-time data analysis and a commentary of where Stem shortages exist.

Gareth James, head of education at the Institution of Engineering and Technology (IET), said: “Good quality qualifications in maths, physics, chemistry, biology and computer science will open many doors to young people but if they want to stand out as potential employees they also need to demonstrate their ability to apply their learning and to have good employability skills such as team working.

“It is vital that if young people want to have the best chance in the jobs market that they need to research what employers are looking for, to choose their subjects accordingly and gain the sort of experience and skills that will make them appealing.”

Syema Majeed

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