Why We Should Be Encouraging More Partnerships with Young People in the ‘Real World’ of Science

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By Naomi Webb

If there’s one complaint you’ll hear from school children time and time again, it’s the classic ‘but when will we ever use what we’re learning in the real world?’.


That’s what teachers are up against when they’re trying to persuade pupils to concentrate in lessons. Science teachers go to the trouble of making sure the classroom is well equipped with educational materials and tools for experiments (from suppliers such as the likes of this one), planning well-paced and interesting lessons to deliver key learning points… and still, teenagers can sometimes feel like what they’re learning is not relevant to their lives.


That’s a feeling that’s pretty common across the board with ‘STEM’ subjects (science, technology, engineering and maths) perceived as being something that only ‘geeky’ kids study or make careers of. In fact, there’s a shortage of scientists and engineers in the UK, and there’s a gender bias too, with women making up only 12.8% of the STEM workforce in the UK right now.


However, there is a way to change this… and that’s to facilitate partnerships between students and professionals in the ‘real world’ of science.


Partnering inspirational individuals with pupils, and inviting these professionals to give talks and presentations, is a sure-fire way of encouraging pupils to pursue STEM subjects throughout their education and, ultimately, their careers.


For instance, a school in Lancashire has recently been visited by RAF Youth Teams and BAE Apprentices. The RAF and BAE representatives aimed to boost interest in STEM subjects, helping pupils to see that what they learn does in fact have a real-world application.


As well as listening and watching the experts at work, the pupils were encouraged to get up and test their understanding with practical demonstrations too. This helped them to get their heads around trickier parts of the curriculum, using practical examples to show how naval engineers put their academic knowledge to use in an exciting job.


Similarly, Rachel Riley (an Oxford graduate most well-known for performing super-quick calculations on Countdown) has recently been doing something similar to inspire students to study maths. The Liverpool Echo reported that Rachel visited a local school to ‘encourage girls to study science, technology, engineering and maths’.


“I’m here to tell them about what they can expect to study at university if they wanted to do maths, what careers they could expect to get, and the exciting, interesting and sometimes surprising things they wouldn’t know mathematicians are doing at the moment,” Rachel explained.


In fact, celebrities like Rachel Riley are ideal partners for schools as they lend a sense of ‘kudos’ or ‘coolness’ to subjects that are otherwise thought to be the reserve of ‘geeks’. These are classes that pupils would otherwise distance themselves from if it wasn’t for the real-world professionals they’re used to seeing on the TV screens singing the praises of subjects like maths and science.


Ultimately, partnering pupils with ‘real world professionals’ in science brings theoretical, abstract and often challenging concepts to life. It makes it cool to study a subject and shows that concentrating in lessons is the best investment of their time… what they’re learning in school really does have a proper use in the ‘real’ world!


Naomi Webb is an experienced freelance writer specialising in the latest teaching trends and news. She hopes her writing provides valuable insight for both teachers and parents across the world.