Science, Technology, Engineering and Mathematics: education and training strategy

A Strategy which offers a programme of actions for education, training and lifelong learning in Scotland to achieve our goals for STEM.

3 Introduction

Scotland rightly takes pride in our history and culture of expertise, innovation and achievement in Science, Technology, Engineering and Mathematics ( STEM) and in a legacy which is not confined to the past but which thrives around us.

STEM is an integral part of our future economic and social development. Change is happening all around us and the pace of that change in the workplace, the economy and our everyday lives is relentless. It is driven largely by developments in STEM and, in particular, technology. We know that STEM-related sectors of the economy have been growing faster than Scotland’s economy as a whole and this trend is set to continue. In areas such as low carbon and digital technology we need to be equipped to be at the forefront of innovation, and create the right environment for further business investment. To realise this future of opportunity for Scotland to have an innovative, growing economy, we must support the development of a skilled and adaptable workforce that can take advantage of the growing number and evolving range of STEM jobs.

Developing our wider STEM knowledge and literacy is also important to us all as active citizens within the communities in which we live. It helps us to understand the increasingly connected world we live in. It helps us with the complex questions we face, from mitigating climate change to dealing with the impact of an ageing population and it gives us the tools and knowledge to make informed lifestyle choices on issues that may affect us as individuals. Above all, STEM ignites our curiosity and helps us enjoy and understand the natural and physical world around us, enriching our lives.

Education, training and lifelong learning have a key role to play in responding to these economic and societal imperatives by building a strong base of STEM skills and knowledge for everyone and by enthusing and encouraging people to develop more specialised STEM skills and capabilities. However, for that response to be effective, there are a number of challenges we need to address:

  • We need to ensure children, young people and adults are encouraged to develop an interest in, and enthusiasm for, STEM that is reinforced throughout their lives.
  • We need to ensure our education system has the right number of practitioners, including teachers, with the appropriate STEM capability, delivering excellent learning and teaching.
  • We need to ensure that our education and training system is equipping people with the skills that employers need and that it has the flexibility to respond to the inevitable changes in labour market demand.
  • We need to tackle the gender imbalances and other inequities that exist across STEM education and training including in relation to race, disability, deprivation and geography. These are unfair and undermine our ability to deliver inclusive economic growth in Scotland.

There also needs to be more joined-up action within and between the different sectors that make up the whole system of STEM education and training. This includes the sharing of resources and expertise between practitioners so that they can learn from one another. It also includes working together so that there are clear and co-ordinated STEM education and training pathways for people to follow from the early years and on into school, work, college or university.

The strategy sets out the actions for the education and training system, the science engagement sector, and for Community Learning and Development ( CLD) which will help address these issues over the next five years. Collaboration and strong partnership working by all those with an interest will be critical if we are able to deliver fully on our ambitions.

What is STEM?

STEM stands for Science, Technology, Engineering and Mathematics. We include numeracy and digital skills within our definition of STEM. Both of these are vital to enable everyone to participate successfully in society as well as across all jobs, careers and occupations. STEM education and training seeks not only to develop expertise and capability in each individual field but also to develop the ability and skills to work across disciplines through interdisciplinary learning. STEM education and training helps us acquire the following skills and capabilities:

  • growing our understanding and appreciation of the natural and physical world and the broader universe around us;
  • interpreting and analysing data and information;
  • research and critical enquiry – to develop and test ideas;
  • problem solving and risk assessment;
  • experimentation, exploration and discovery of new knowledge, ideas and products;
  • collaboration and working across fields and disciplines; and
  • creativity and innovation – to develop new products and approaches;

All of these are increasingly important to success in a changing and technologically-driven world. They are also important for helping us to develop as active citizens, making informed decisions for ourselves and for society.

We recognise, in particular, the importance of creativity and innovation for economic growth and the strong synergies that exist between STEM and creativity.

Annex A sets out details of what we understand by the terms Science, Technology, Engineering, and Mathematics.

Case Study

Building STEM Capital – Dundee Science Centre

What is ‘ STEM capital’ and why is it important?

STEM capital’ is the concept that a wide range of knowledge, experiences, attitudes, behaviours and practices will influence people in a range of different ways. It helps shed light on why particular social groups remain underrepresented and why many young people do not see science careers as being ‘for me’.

Key components of ‘ STEM capital’ includes participation in out-of-school science learning contexts, for example how often a young person participates in informal science learning contexts, such as science museums, science clubs and fairs, the extent to which a young person’s family have science-related skills, qualifications, jobs and interests, and the people a young person knows in their family, friends, peer, and community circles who work in science-related roles.

CSI CS Why CS How’ is a collaborative, community-led learning experience. It directly engaged with adults from rural or socially and economically-deprived areas of Dundee, Fife, Perth and Glasgow. The project aims to develop their skills, knowledge, confidence, family engagement and team working, as well as creating an increased awareness and pride in scientific research and developments taking place in their local area. It also helped to build STEM capital by demonstrating the message that STEM subjects are relevant and for everyone.

The project was led by Dundee Science Centre and the Centre for Anatomy and Human Identification at the University of Dundee with the support of Writing Practice and Study at the University. The case-based six-week learning experience was themed around a murder mystery scenario and challenged participants to use a range of skills to gather and evaluate evidence in order to solve the mystery. It culminated in a mock court case to which the participants also brought their families.


Email: Frank Creamer

Phone: 0300 244 4000 – Central Enquiry Unit

The Scottish Government
St Andrew's House
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