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article imageNew study on Canadian kids attitudes toward STEM

By Tim Sandle     Mar 8, 2018 in Science
The first comprehensive study on Canadian kids attitudes toward STEM has been undertaken by Actua, the national Canadian charity advocating for youth education in STEM fields, and it has produced some interesting findings.
The new study is titled "Coding The Future: What Canadian youth and their parents think about coding", produced by Actua, the a Canadian charitable organization that delivers science, engineering and technology educational programs to young people in Canada. This is borne out in Actua's stated mission, which is "to provide young Canadians with life-changing science, engineering and technology experiences that inspire youth to achieve their potential and fulfill their critical role in the world."
The results of the study demonstrate interesting findings on Canadian students’ and parents’ attitude towards coding, highlighting a significant gender gap across the board when it comes to girls and boys getting involved in STEM subjects (with STEM representing the academic groupings Science, Technology, Engineering and Mathematics). The study was conducted by Abacus Data, using a sample of 1,500 children (aged 12 to 18) and their parents, with the subjects being statistically weighted to match Canada’s population.
The results of the study overall show there is a lack of resources available for youth and underrepresented groups nationally. In addition, the results show a lack of confidence in students’ coding abilities (especially in young girls and underrepresented groups).
Other findings of interest are that students and their parents know coding will be an important skill for future careers. However, it remains that boys are more interested than girls in careers involving coding and programming (22 per cent of male students were ‘very interested’ in coding careers and only eight per cent of female students reported ‘very interested’); unless this is addressed those embarking on information technology careers will remain primarily male. This arises because boys are more confident than girls in their coding and programming abilities (31 per cent of girls reported ‘not confident at all’ vs. 16 per cent of their male counterparts).
There is also a general issue, cutting across both boys and girls, where the Canadian education system appears out of sync with the needs of businesses. The demand for coding education far exceeds what children believe is available to them, both in and out of school. 54 per cent of students say there are not enough opportunities to learn coding in their school. In terms of potential interest, the study reveals that over 90 per cent of girls and boys and their parents think that design, coding and programming will be important for future careers.
To address these issues, the report conduces there "is a strong case for offering more coding instruction in and outside of school— and especially to girls and young Canadians from lower-income and lower education households."
For related STEM and gender issues affecting Canada, see the Digital Journal article "How Canada can bridge its gender deficit in STEM subjects."
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