‘Parents’ hang-ups about science and maths affecting children’s choices’

Parents’ lack of confidence in subjects such as Science and Maths is discouraging the younger generation from pursuing those subjects at school and beyond, according to research from the Institution of Engineering and Technology.

The study found that 43% of parents have heard their children say ‘I’m rubbish at Maths’ and 32% of parents themselves have used similar statements that they acknowledge affect their kids’ confidence in STEM subjects.

Over a quarter (26%) of parents of school age children (5-18) polled agree that their own lack of confidence in STEM has affected their children’s proficiency in this area. The IET says that for any child who is challenged by their school work, their parents will likely be the first place they turn to for guidance and support. However, the poll found parents find Maths (35%) and Science (24%) the most difficult homework subjects to help with (compared with 18% for English/Literacy and 15% for History).

According to the survey, mums find Maths the most challenging – 42% have trouble helping with Maths homework, compared with 28% of dads. It showed that parents are increasingly turning to technology to assist with homework – with Google (80.5%) and YouTube (17.1%) the most popular solutions. Moreover, whilst 70% of parents regularly attempt to help their children with homework, more than a third (38%) admit to feigning confidence so as to appear clever in front of their child.

The IET points out that the UK faces a nationwide skills shortage. It says 203,000 people with engineering skills will be required each year to meet demand through to 2024, but it is estimated that there will be an annual shortfall of 59,000 engineering and technicians to fill these roles.

David Lakin, IET Head of Education, said: “Parents need to be mindful of how their own confidence and enthusiasm towards certain subjects can influence and shape their children’s development from an early age. This study suggests that parents are subconsciously dissuading their children through their attitudes towards STEM. We want to equip them with the knowledge and skills to better support and encourage their children in these areas, regardless of their own level of expertise.

“Exciting young people about STEM and its endless possibilities will set them on an exciting path that could lead to a fulfilling and rewarding career in engineering and technology.”

*The IET is hosting a ‘Parentorial’ Facebook Live at 12.30pm on Friday 8 June. The ‘Parentorial’ will feature a panel discussion on the importance of encouraging and inspiring children to study STEM subjects, and the opportunities that a career in engineering can bring. Panelists will include celebrated television presented Konnie Huq (having studied Maths, Physics and Chemistry herself at A-level) and Yewande Akinola, former IET Young Woman Engineer of the Year and STEM ambassador.

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