Is Scottish STEM on the road to recovery? The first ever Scotland Women in Technology Awards ceremony was undoubtedly a watershed moment for the nation’s tech sector, celebrating those who possess the commitment and passion to champion the role of women in Scotland’s rapidly evolving technology markets.
In August, DIGIT spoke to a number of organisations that are working proactively to tighten and ultimately close gender-based gaps in STEM for future generations.
Now, the Scottish Government has jumped in with a five-year strategy aimed at combatting STEM inequalities on education and training across the country.
The report outlines four physical and ideological objectives to be achieved over the next five years. These outcomes are:
- to give employers access to the STEM workforce that they need
- to close gaps in participation and attainment in STEM
- to inspire children, young people and adults to obtain more skills
- to align STEM education with labour market needs
To improve the quality and quantity of the teaching pool, the report describes a number of training schemes the Scottish Government plans to ramp up over the next five years.
These include a retraining initiative slated for August 2018 – which will offer graduates £20,000 to retrain as teachers. A self-evaluation framework for higher education programmes will also be introduced, to allow new teachers to highlight areas for development on their initial training courses for the academic year 2017-2018.
Imbalances between males and females are also evident across Scotland’s education and training system. The report notes that while there are ‘broader societal issues’ at play, the Government could be doing more to reduce these differences.
From 2018 the report states that the Government will begin negotiations with learning providers and schools to address unconscious bias and gender stereotyping in schools, perhaps even changing learning programmes to deliver equality courses.
However the support schemes will also go beyond frontline education. 93% of modern apprentices are male, and to combat this imbalance, Skills Development Scotland will partner with organisations to increase female-uptake of STEM related programmes, from 2018 and to 2022.
Poverty-related gaps will also be addressed in line with the Scottish Attainment Challenge, increasing funding for schools with difficulties in numeracy and STEM-related subjects by March 2019. A survey of ‘deprivation and rurality’ will also inform public science engagement funding in 2018-19 ‘and beyond’.
Other measures include a social media campaign launching in 2018, aimed at ‘increasing gender balance’ and addressing ‘occupational segregation’.
Science centres will also be asked to target activities at particular groups underserved by current science engagement activities, and festivals will be asked to promote at least one event towards women and girls from 2017-18 onwards as a condition of receiving official funding.
Shirley-Anne Somerville, Minister for Further Education, Higher Education and Science, underscored the necessity of such a comprehensive strategy: “It is critical that Scotland recognises the value of, and achieves its full potential in STEM.
“This strategy sets out our vision of a Scotland where everyone is encouraged and supported to develop their STEM capability throughout their lives, enabling them to be inquiring, productive and innovative, both in order to grow STEM literacy in society and to drive inclusive economic growth.”
Professor Sheila Rowan, Chief Scientific Adviser for Scotland, agreed: “Science and innovation are embedded in Scotland’s heritage and culture. They will play an ever-increasing role in Scotland’s future within the global economy.”
“As Scotland’s Chief Scientific Adviser I recognise the value of combining the economic and broader social aspects of STEM education and training within this strategy.”