Science and innovation are embedded in Scotland's heritage and culture and integral to our future economic growth. STEM – Science, Technology, Engineering and Mathematics – has never been more relevant as we face the challenges of a global climate emergency, uncertainty arising from the UK's exit from the European Union, and the need to recover from the COVID-19 pandemic.
COVID-19 has placed significant stress on the education system and on our young people; from the youngest citizens in early years to those studying at an advanced level at our universities. We have all had to adapt to the restrictions necessary to contain this deadly pandemic. New skills have been brought to the fore such as flexibility, creativity, innovation and a greater capacity to react to changed circumstances at very short notice.
Our education system in Scotland has demonstrated a strong and enduring capacity to adapt over the past year and to make the necessary changes for the benefit of our young people. The aim has been to ensure as much as possible that young people in particular can continue with their learning. Technology has played a key role; perhaps more so than many of us would have imagined only a year ago. The National e-Learning Offer – a collaborative programme involving Scottish Government, Education Scotland and local government – is helping to improve the options available to schools by enhancing the provision for "live" remote learning, recorded lessons and supported learning via online digital learning.
While I would have hoped to have presented this third annual report of the STEM Education and Training Strategy with supporting evidence from a variety of sources and a strong evidential base showing how we have improved STEM provision in schools and beyond, the COVID-19 restrictions mean that level of detail is not possible. Some stakeholders who ordinarily gather data have either been re-deployed to COVID-19 related tasks or have been furloughed. However, I am able to highlight here significant areas where good progress is being made. These include STEM apprenticeships, measures to address gender inequality in STEM and an innovative new STEM awards programme for young people.
This Strategy sets out our vision of a Scotland where everyone is encouraged and supported to develop their STEM capability. We continue to focus on the themes of excellence, equity, inspiration and connection. We demonstrate how, despite the challenges we face, we have been able to deliver progress that will benefit our young people, their educators and wider Scottish society.
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