GCSE and A-Level students and teachers across the UK can now take advantage of a new online resource that aims to boost uptake in core STEM (science, technology, engineering and maths) subjects.
The service is being offered for free by business analytics software provider SAS, which has seen success with the resource in the US over the past decade. It is being used by in all US states, by 70,000 teachers and 18,000 schools.
SAS is attempting to fill a skills gap in the IT industry with an investment of £47 million over 12 years, as the government and many companies have expressed concern at the lack of qualified young candidates entering the marketplace.
Teachers will be able to access lesson plans from home or at work via the web hosted service, named, SAS Curriculum Pathways, and provides students with interactive tasks to encourage critical thinking in the key subject areas.
“The shortage of STEM skills in the UK is a massive problem. Recruiting into our industry, business intelligence, has been quite alarming because of the level of numeracy found in so many graduates,” said Geoffrey Taylor, head of the academic programme at SAS.
“There are other tools out there, but the wonderful thing about this tool is the breadth and depth of what it offers. Instead of using a variety of different resources, teachers have the entire curriculum in one tool at no cost to the school,” he added.
Taylor explained that rolling the programme out in the UK has been made easier by having already implemented it in the US.
“We have learnt many lessons from the US. The main one being that we need to trust teachers and get them to help with the development of the tool,” he said.
“It’s important that it’s not just a bunch of software graphic experts sitting in a corner designing the resources. As a result, we now hire ‘master teachers’ in the US that are part of the development team and we will be doing the same in the UK,” he added.
“These education specialists will be helping us map the materials that are available online with the relevant subject areas on the British curriculum.”
Universities offering STEM subjects also need to be investigated, argues Taylor, who claims that it is likely that the UK is training highly qualified international students in these areas, who then head back to their country of origin when they graduate.
“What’s interesting is that the STEM subjects at British universities are at capacity. So the question needs to be asked – where are these students coming from?” he said.
“I think the picture is very uneven and I suspect that this country is churning out engineers and data scientists to a large degree, but then they are leaving the country and going back home. This is why we have a tremendous shortage of the skills needed in the British marketplace.”
Some 52 schools have signed up to the SAS Curriculum Pathways service and will initially be available in England and Wales, with Scotland and Ireland to follow in the coming months.
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