Originally posted by: DavidLenaghan
I have read through many of the messages for this facinating debate. I think that it is time that we look at this from a new angle.
Imagine for a moment that the Govenment introduced an Engineering GCSE and an Engineering A-Level and made it compulsory for all students to do it.
An engineering GCSE already exists, in addition to an electronics GCSE and a systems and control GCSE. Only a fraction of secondary schools offer them and they are not seen as important or high priority subjects. Engineering and electronics are offered at A Level through a handful of colleges. There seems to be a trend away from electronics and computing at A Level towards vocational courses.
My son was verbally informed that he has two naff A Levels that nobody really asks for or accepts.
What effect would this have at the numbers of people (both male and female) taking up engineering?
Just to get the ball rolling here are a few of my guesses to the answer to this.
1. More students would have an exposure to the world of engineering and be able to make an informed choice about their career (a good thing)
This depends on the quality of the course and its content, as well as the people who are teaching it.
A course that is dull, outdated, or unconnected to the real world could turn students off engineering altogether. It is a known fact amongst students and educational critics and strategists that the three aforementioned characteristics have featured prominently in many sections of school and higher education for decades.
2. It would be very expensive to entice the required number of engineers into the teaching profession so teachers without engineering experience would be brought in to teach this new compulsory subject. (a bad thing)
It is very difficult to introduce new subjects into the secondary school curriculum because it means finding people who both have knowledge of the subject AND are qualified teachers. If the government was serious about introducing a new subject then they would provide incentives for suitably knowledgeable people to train to become teachers. Using teachers who are not knowledgeable, or have no interest in the subject, is doing students a bad disservice.
3. Some students would get a bad experience of engineering and be determined not to do any engineering for the rest of their lives. (a bad thing)
That's true. Making a subject compulsory will result in resentment from students who have no interest in it and is likely to lead to dumbing down and 'popularising' the course. Look what happened to science in schools when it changed from being an optional to a compulsory subject. Some educational strategists believe that the best strategy for science is to revert to the situation of 30 years ago with optional O Levels that are of a higher standard than the GCSE.
4. After 10 years of this Engineering programme the UK will find that it has too many engineers! Unemployment amongst the engineering community is at an all time high. (a bad thing)
Does the UK even need any more engineers?
I personally think that engineering courses need to be made better for those who wish to pursue engineering, and various bodies put a stop to this fuss about trying to get more young people to take STEM subjects.
Clearly (from the discussion above) there are three main influences on a young person when deciding which career they follow.
1. Parental influence and opinion.
2. Teacher influence.
3. Opportunity available.
If we want to encourage more engineers in the UK then we need to look at those three factors. Is this the problem that we are trying to fix?
I would include job prospects and accessibility to the industry from outsiders. If engineering is declining due to globalisation of the economy and outsourcing, whilst what remains of the industry operates as a closed club, then engineering will be unattractive as a career choice.
A further direction to look in is to consider the careers that are popular and that loads of students are pushing to get in to.
Take care not to confuse popular careers with popular subjects.