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STEM education in England: questioning the “leaky pipeline” metaphor

Pallavi Banerjee (School of Education, University of Exeter, Exeter, UK)
Luke Graham (School of Education, University of Exeter, Exeter, UK)

Education + Training

ISSN: 0040-0912

Article publication date: 3 October 2023

Issue publication date: 20 November 2023

322

Abstract

Purpose

The skillsets of science, technology, engineering and mathematics (STEM) graduates are widely recognised to be important for economic prosperity. At the same time, it is broadly accepted that in England there is a need to increase the number of people studying STEM degree courses and working in STEM. However, despite decades of interventions post-16, STEM participation rates remain lower than projected requirements. Some research reports suggest a lack of positive attitudes towards these subjects and aspirations amongst some social groups. As these debates continue, official reports such as those released by the Department for Education show these patterns from the labour market and higher education (HE) extend to both attainment and participation in science and math in school.

Design/methodology/approach

In this paper, the authors summarise the authors' findings from the analysis of official reports, policy documents and major research reports focussing on attainment in school science and math and post-compulsory STEM participation.

Findings

The authors identify the problematic ways in which STEM subject choices are made across the student life cycle and then discuss how the leaky pipeline metaphor can be ambiguous and needs to be used with caution.

Research limitations/implications

Some aspects identified here warrant further research and will be of particular interest to researchers, practitioners and policymakers.

Originality/value

In this new report, the authors identify the problematic ways in which STEM subject choices are made across the student life cycle in England and then discuss how the leaky pipeline metaphor can be ambiguous and needs to be used with caution.

Keywords

Citation

Banerjee, P. and Graham, L. (2023), "STEM education in England: questioning the “leaky pipeline” metaphor", Education + Training, Vol. 65 No. 8/9, pp. 957-971. https://doi.org/10.1108/ET-03-2023-0079

Publisher

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Emerald Publishing Limited

Copyright © 2023, Emerald Publishing Limited

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