I run one of Scotland’s top engineering degree programmes. In the coming decades there will be a massive need for engineers to support economic growth – there is an expected 36,800 shortfall in qualified engineers predicted by 2050.
To address this we have to convince more students to take STEM subjects (Science, technology, engineering and mathematics), particularly underrepresented groups.
In October official figures revealed there had been a fall in the number of pupils taking STEM subjects at Higher in Scotland, and a lack of progress regarding the proportion girls taking these key subjects. This is bad for Scotland’s future prosperity and it is bad for the life chances of young Scots.
Now we find that not only has there been a decline in the number of students studying STEM subjects in Scottish Schools, but standards are declining according the respected PISA standard.
In mathematics Scotland has gone from 9th in 2003 to 24th in 2015. In science Scotland is now 19th, compared to 10th in 2006. Thomas Telford, James Watt, Robert Stevenson and William Arrol must be spinning in their graves.
The problem is that the same people who got us into this mess by cutting education budgets in a way that would make Thatcher proud now tell us they have the solution to the problem – more centralisation and bureaucracy for head teachers.
After ten years of indifference the SNP government should now use our parliament’s powers to invest in our schools, ensuring they have enough teachers and support staff to reverse this decline they have presided over.