Who knew – career choices

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Mount Saint Vincent University recently released a study called “Career Choices and Influences in Science, Technology, Engineering and Math” (STEM).

The Chronicle Herald with education reporter Frances Willick had a great write-up on the report on Jan. 23. I encourage parents of young girls and boys to read the report. It is certainly an eye-opener and the results of the report need to be widely known by parents and teachers alike.

Several key points in the report include why girls go into careers in the areas of science, technology, engineering and math. The study indicated that girls who participated in STEM activities were 2.7 times more likely to consider careers in the STEM fields.

The study also showed that up to Grade 7 participation in STEM activities had an influence on the students. However, as children got older the likelihood of participating in science type activities becomes less and less. Reporter Frances Willick wrote “The study also showed students in grades 7 to 9 have a surprising lack of knowledge about whether high school science and math are necessary courses for certain careers.”

Clearly there are many careers that require the subjects of science, physics, chemistry, biology and mathematics. The question is how do we generate the interest in these subjects at very young ages and how do we keep that interest as our children reach middle school and high school? My initial thought is that it depends a lot on parents to help instil the curiosity in the sciences. Because the study indicates that it needs to happen at a young age, parents and grandparents may have the greatest influence.

Of course teachers do play an important role. They must be able to show how mathematics and the science courses relate to today’s world so children understand the relationship and requirements between subjects they study and careers they might like to work at tomorrow.

One other interesting point in the report is a bit of an eye-opener. I quote from Frances Willick’s article, “The study showed that teachers had a negligible impact on students’ likelihood of choosing a STEM career, and that getting good grades had no impact.” Who knew?!


An education advocate, Ron Marks has been an outspoken member of local and regional school boards and a former Stellarton mayor. His column runs weekly.

Organizations: Mount Saint Vincent University

Geographic location: Stellarton

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