News / Canada

Teens know science is important but still not interested: London report

Teens are increasingly recognizing the importance of science lessons, but fewer than half are seeing courses through to Grade 12.

The catch-22 is highlighted in a study released Wednesday by Let’s Talk Science, a London-based organization that’s working to get more kids interested in science, technology, engineering and math (STEM).

Done with support from Amgen Canada, the survey points to a series of gaps between teens’ attitudes toward science and their plans for the future.

While 72 per cent of the 13 to 17 year olds surveyed said they think science is fun, up from 34 per cent three years ago, only 12 per cent are interested in working in science-related fields.

The gap is slightly less between the 78 per cent of teens who say science offers them many career options and the 22 per cent who show serious interest in pursing the field at university or college.

Overall, “attitudes toward taking science courses have remained relatively flat,” said Bonnie Schmidt, president and founder of Let’s Talk Science.

And, that means there’s a lot of work to be done with Canada looking to churn out more graduates with degrees tied to science and math.

“Understanding what influences and motivates youth as they look to their futures is critical to how we — educators, parents, youth, industry, non-profit organizations and government — work together to inspire and motivate them to remain engaged in STEM learning,” Schmidt added.

Bridging the gaps and translating attitudes into behaviours requires collective action, Lets Talk Science says.

The non-profit’s Spotlight on Science Learning initiative has identified several ways to get teens more engaged. They include:

  • Raising awareness about all career opportunities and the path required to get there, at the time when students are making major educational and career decisions.
  • Clarifying what actually happens in science-related jobs, and helping students see the careers can offer stimulating work environments.
  • Correcting misperceptions about the kind of education science-related careers require.

Of the 818 Canadian teens surveyed, 60 per cent were under the impression they would need a university degree to work in the field.

While that’s true in many cases, there are many college certificate, diploma and skilled-trades programs that are heavy on science, technology, engineering and math, Let’s Talk Science says.

You can read the full survey report on Let's Talk Science's website.

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