Friday, 23 November 2012


We need to work harder to get young people interested in mathematics and science because it is a strong determinant of their career choice in STEM- related fields. The European Commission's Eurydice Report "Developing Key Competencies at School in Europe' makes interesting reading.

We all recognise the importance of maths and science learning and this report is critical since "detailed analysis of centrally supported initiatives to improve motivation in learning mathematics and science reveals that actions rarely cover all levels of school education, from primary to upper secondary, and do not always include a wide range of activities. Currently such broad and comprehensive initiatives for mathematics and science exist only in Austria and Finland, where they also incorporate activities in pre-primary education. More commonly, countries focus on specific projects, such as support for extra-curricular activities, partnerships with universities and companies, and the promotion of teaching methods which encourage student engagement. Less often supported at national level are, for instance, general awareness campaigns on the value of mathematics and promotion of the involvement of parents in mathematics and science learning."

More often initiatives to promote motivation concentrate on high achievers, whereas the report argues we should target the broader student population. In the same way that to increase the uptake of the arts we should immerse children and young people in an arts rich curriculum from the early years we should do the same thing with a STEM rich curriculum from the early years. In addition, we must step up our efforts to reach more vulnerable groups, and also have as one of our primary objectives to attract more women into STEM study and professions. 

The report goes on to highlight the research suggesting that while there is a sound rationale for developing comprehensive STEM strategies, the overall effect could be increased if mathematics-specific initiatives are scaled-up to include activities from an early age and take into account the particular motivational challenges that concern this subject area. These challenges include addressing the perceptions that mathematics is difficult, abstract and not relevant to real life, and preventing the development of negative attitudes and anxiety. 

The report argues that evaluations of past national strategies and actions have also emphasised the need for a bottom up approach which starts early and involves a range of stakeholders and partners working together to co-create a more exciting, dynamic and hands on curriculum offer. This is what the Cutlers' "Made in Sheffield" Programme is doing!

If you want to read this excellent report you can download it at

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