Boys’ interest in STEM careers has dropped over the past year, while girls’ interest remains the same, according to an annual survey from Junior Achievement and Ernst & Young LLP.
Last year, 36 percent of surveyed male high school students said they wanted a STEM career, but this year, only 24 percent reported the same. For two years straight, just 11 percent of female high school students say they want to pursue a STEM profession.
Girls’ low interest in STEM education and careers isn’t exactly new–by middle school, many girls lose interest in and enthusiasm for STEM subjects for a variety of reasons, including the false perception that science, math, and technology classes aren’t “cool,” as well as a lack of female representation in STEM professions. Still, many initiatives and schools are working to combat this trend.
Project-based learning (PBL) might be one way to increase students’ interest in STEM, according to Texas educator George Hademenos. PBL’s student-centered investigation helps students develop creativity and problem-solving and is ideally suited for STEM-centered challenges.
Students are naturally inquisitive, but they need some support. Pointing them to role models in the STEM industry, making STEM topics exciting, making sure teachers have high-quality training and support, and involving parents are all strategies to increase STEM interest, according to Erika Angle, founder of Science from Scientists, a nonprofit focusing on STEM education for elementary and middle school students.
Desire for careers in the arts fell as well, from 18 percent among all surveyed students to 13 percent this year.
More students expect to take out loans to pay for higher education–last year, 33 percent of students knew they would rely on loans, and this year, 45 percent of students anticipate taking out a student loan.
With more focus on the return on investment–including starting salaries–students can expect to gain from their time in college, financial education is increasingly important.
Despite this need for financial awareness, the number of teens who have taken a financial readiness class decreased from 33 percent in 2017 to 28 percent in 2018. Still, 81 percent of teens say they would take a work/financial readiness class if it were offered to them.
According to surveyed students, their parents still hold the top spot in terms of who or what influences their choice of dream job. Parents’ influence, in fact, increased from 19 percent to 28 percent since last year. Societal influences, such as social media, declined from 15 percent to 8 percent. Other sources of inspiration include teachers, courses, volunteering, and extra-curricular activities.
The two skills surveyed students say they would like to learn most to prepare for their dream jobs include technology and relationship building. Most students have an idea of what those dream jobs might be–88 percent of those surveyed say they know the kind of job they want after graduation.