Parents admit to flunking out on STEM as kids’ knowledge races ahead

Researchers, who polled parents with children aged five to 13, found the mere thought of having to help their kids with anything related to these subjects left a third ‘feeling ill.’ Half openly admitted they know less about science than their offspring - and the same goes for technology (44 per cent), engineering (25 per cent) and maths (38 per cent). In fact, 48 per cent of parents don’t even know what the collective term or acronym for these subjects – STEM – stands for.

And while familiar to children as part of the national curriculum, terms such as Boolean logic (79 per cent), binary code (46 per cent), hexadecimal (68 per cent), and Raspberry Pi (64 per cent) draw a blank with mums and dads.

The research was commissioned by the Institution of Engineering and Technology (IET) which has developed a host of fun STEM activities for parents and children alike to enjoy for free over the summer – the virtual ‘Engineering Open House Day’ festival, live on Friday 23rd July.

Presented by CBeebies host Maddie Moate and BBC Science Broadcaster Greg Foot, Engineering Open House Day will be jam-packed with cool experiments, special guests and follow-along-at-home demonstrations.

As part of the event, the IET will be providing exclusive access to more than 40 organisations – including Apple, TfL, and F1 – to show the creativity behind engineering careers and the important role that engineers play in everyday life.

From the opportunity to design and create your own app with Apple, to sessions on building and launching a homemade rocket, there’s something for kids of all ages and interests.

However, it is not just the modern STEM curriculum that baffles parents. The study found that there are plenty of things they were also taught but have completely forgotten. More than half of mums and dads polled no longer know what photosynthesis is, 68 per cent can’t remember Pythagoras' theorem, and 54 per cent don’t know how to do long division anymore.

Another 52 per cent can’t calculate fractions, 61 per cent have no recollection of how to calculate the circumference of a circle, and 40 per cent don’t know how many sides an octagon has.

Newton's law of universal gravitation is a mystery to 73 per cent, and for 47 per cent, so are prime numbers - while the same proportion can’t recognise the symbol for pi.

Two thirds don’t know the term which describes what happens when a liquid turns into a gas (evaporation) and 52 per cent don’t know the boiling point of water!

And perhaps having an awareness of what they no longer know explains why 70 per cent think their children would gain a ‘great deal of confidence’ if they embraced STEM.

The research carried out through OnePoll also found two thirds wish they were taught this subject in the engaging and exciting manner kids are today.

Talking about the poll, Professor Danielle George, President of the IET, summarised: “I’ve always felt passionately about our role in inspiring the next generation of engineers, app developers and astronauts. But today’s study has uncovered some gaps in parents’ STEM knowledge which can make it hard for them to engage with the subject with their kids.

“Engineering Open House Day offers mums and dads everywhere great activities to help them get stuck into science and technology and to encourage their children to take part in, and engage with, the world of STEM.

“We’ve got a fantastic line-up for this year’s virtual event and a number of wonderful organisations taking part. It’s totally free to sign up so we really encourage as many parents and kids to do so as possible – it’s the perfect antidote to boredom for families looking for fascinating, fun activities during the school holidays.”

Join the IET and enter a world of endless STEM creativities and possibilities - visit here to register your place now:


Notes to editors:

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