Relatable and realistic contexts

‘I like science, but I don’t want to be a scientist!’

Does this sound frustratingly familiar? Professor Louise Archer et al (2013) analysed over 18,000 student surveys in a five year longitudinal study of the career aspirations of children aged 10-14 years old.

The majority of students saw science as important:

  • 73% Y8 pupils agree that science is generally useful for their futures
  • 70% feel that science is useful for getting a good future job
  • 79% believe that scientists do valuable work
  • 62% agree that scientists are respected by society
  • 63% think scientists make a lot of money

However, this enjoyment of science doesn’t translate into science career aspirations, with just 15% of 10-14 year olds aspiring to a career in science.

The study revealed a remarkably consistent picture of who is likely, or unlikely, to express science aspirations, with one of the key factors being a students’ ‘science capital’.

Science capital

One of the key features of ‘science capital’ is a students’ science-related values, which Archer describes as “the extent to which a young person sees science as relevant to everyday life (for instance, the view that science is ‘everywhere’).”

Knowledge about the transferability of science is also key to thinking science is ‘for me’, which includes understanding that science qualifications, knowledge and skills can lead to a wide range of jobs beyond, not just in, science fields.

In the next step we ask you to consider key findings from the ASPIRE report which looked into what influences the likelihood of a young person aspiring to a science-related career.

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This article is from the free online course:

Teaching Practical Science: Biology

National STEM Learning Centre