Thursday, January 27, 2011


According to the National Assembly’s Enterprise and Learning Committee, STEM (science, technology, engineering and maths) skills amongst young people are is simply not up to scratch, highlighting a lack of high-quality specialist teachers, poor student performances and negative perceptions of the subjects.

Their report showed that the proportion of students in Wales taking sciences and maths at A-level is significantly below the rest of the UK, and the teaching of combined science as opposed to separate biology, chemistry and physics at GCSE was proving ineffective. 

The Committee recommends that WAG works to recruit and retain teachers with specialist expertise, and says government and industry need to address gender stereotypes in the subjects, which were seen as “male” domains. It also calls for more partnerships between schools and employers to allow pupils to get work experience. 

Interesting to note that whilst the WAG spokesperson noted that “The minister has made a clear commitment to raising standards across the board in Wales", I believe that there has been no major announcement, in the year since his appointment, on STEM subjects.

Perhaps he should take a leaf out of the book of Mike Moritz, Wales' most successful businessesman. 

During my visit to his headquarters in Silicon Valley earlier this year, the man who invested in Google, Yahoo and Youtube was unequivocal that

"nurturing, developing and attracting the best talent is the key economic strategy that Wales should focus on...providing the resources necessary at the primary and secondary school level to nurture the home grown scientists, engineers and technologists of the future. For example, by stimulating and supporting science within Welsh schools, Mike Moritz believed that you could develop a whole new generation of idea-driven young people that could help develop the industries of the future".

As I wrote at the time, it is a simple message but again one that has been largely ignored by policymakers and politicians in Wales. 

Given the concerns raised by the Committee, surely it is time that WAG took this seriously, not only for the sake of the economy but. more importantly, for the future of our young people.

In fact, some would argue that there is little point of WAG giving public money towards a £400 million university project in Swansea if we are simply not producing the quality and quantity of Welsh students from our schools in STEM subjects.