A new Science, Technology, Engineering and Mathematics (STEM) strategy was launched today to increase the number of students studying these subjects and ensure Ireland is a “forerunner in Europe for STEM education” by 2026.
The new STEM Education Policy Statement for 2017-2026 and Implementation Plan 2017-2019 was launched by Minister for Education Richard Bruton.
The strategy outlines a number of specific targets as well as more general goals. Bruton plans to introduce a new primary maths curriculum, which will include creative and computational thinking and coding. In addition, the introduction of a new Mathematics and Technology curricula in Junior Cycle is planned, as well as encouraging teachers to incorporate STEM into all subjects, using a cross-disciplinary approach.
In doing so, Bruton hopes to increase the amount of students by 20% who chose to take Chemistry, Physics, Technology and Engineering for their Leaving Certificate. The Minister’s plan also seeks to empower groups who have typically been disenfranchised from pursuing higher education in STEM subjects.
At the launch, Bruton stated: “There is a significant gender gap between the number of males and females studying STEM. In this plan I’ve put an increased focus on encouraging traditionally underrepresented groups, such as females, to participate in STEM activities.”
Specifically, Bruton has set the goal of increasing the amount of female students taking STEM for the Leaving Certificate by 40% as well as increasing the achievement rate for students in Department of Education and Skills (DEIS) schools. An accelerated introduction of Computer Science at Leaving Certificate, with implementation brought forward to September 2018, is also planned.
Bruton stated that he “prioritised the teaching and learning of STEM subjects” as Ireland’s education system needs “to adapt to a transformed economy and society”. He said that young people need to be “equipped with the necessary analytical, creativity and critical thinking skills to thrive in such an environment”.
Bruton’s plan to make Ireland a leader in STEM education in Europe by 2026 is following the launch of the European Commission’s STEM Action Plan in 2016, which, among other targets, focuses on improving STEM rates for “girls, technical and vocational secondary education, and young people with a disadvantaged socio-economic background”.
Currently China, Singapore, South Korea and Japan are the world leaders in STEM education.