We need to talk about science at home in order to inspire the next generations of scientists, argues the Coastal West Sussex Partnership.
Chances are, as parents, conversations with our children mostly include talking about their latest dance, music or football sessions, funny things that have happened in the playground and their new favourite song – but when was the last time you spoke about science?
In our recent report, we found that talking about science at home with mum or dad can really impact the likelihood of whether young people will continue to study STEM (Science, Technology, Engineering and Maths) subjects and enter STEM related careers in the future.
Our report looked at the recent ASPIRES study, focusing on how children aged 10 to 14 and their parents develop science and careers aspirations. This found that the aspiration to become a scientist is consistently low across the age range and is disproportionate to their interest in science.
Most students report liking science from year 6 to year 9 and 42% would like to study more science. However, only 15% aspire to be a scientist.
One of the ways that, as parents, we can encourage our young people to explore the fantastic opportunities that STEM careers can open doors to, is by talking to our youngsters and enthusing them to explore the wide possibilities of careers available to them, through STEM.
The report found that families exert considerable influence on students’ aspirations. Known as ‘science capital’ this is the most significant factor affecting the likelihood of a student aspiring to explore a science related career. The science capital includes science qualifications in the family, understanding and knowledge about science, and social contacts with people in a science related job.
Science capital is unevenly spread across social groups and is more prevalent in middle class homes.
Those students with low science capital backgrounds who do not have science related aspirations at 10 are unlikely to develop them by 14.
Awareness of the breadth of opportunities for science in career terms is low across many young people and their parents. Science jobs are typically seen as only leading to jobs as a scientist, science teacher or doctor. Young people and their families are also unaware of the payback on STEM subjects – for example, an A level in mathematics can enhance lifetime earnings by 10% or more.
But don’t worry if you don’t have a science qualification or contact within STEM, there is still plenty you can do to inspire your child with STEM – from activities in the home to opening their eyes to the benefits – and variations – that a career within STEM can offer.
So, the next time you talk about their day – don’t forget to ask them about what they got up to in science. they could just surprise you with their wide-eyed-wonder about their latest in-class experiment!