In a recent survey by I Wish, almost one-third of teachers surveyed said that they did not know enough about science, technology, engineering or maths (STEM) courses and careers.  As an initiative to encourage and motivate female secondary school students to pursue careers in STEM, I Wish is launching a new “Teach It” programme at the fully subscribed I Wish events, which take place in Cork and Dublin from 25 to 30 January 2018.

More than 5,000 female students and their teachers are registered to attend the I Wish STEM showcase events, which are supported by Science Foundation Ireland.  The I Wish research showed that the majority of teachers surveyed (94%) recognise the opportunities in the STEM sector and 74% of those teachers said that they would benefit from more support through training and access to STEM role models and industry engagement.

Led by this research, Teach It zones, sponsored by AIB and in partnership with Dublin City University and Cork Education Training Board, are a new addition to this year’s I Wish showcase days at City Hall Cork and the RDS Dublin.

Speaking at the launch of the I Wish “Teach It” programme, I Wish co-founder Caroline O’Driscoll said, “Over the last five years, the I Wish showcase events have been hugely successful in communicating directly with female students in Irish schools about the power of STEM choices, courses and careers. We will have directly engaged with over 12,000 secondary school pupils in Ireland by the end of January 2018, and we are seeing first-hand the positive impact on young girls’ perceptions and understanding of STEM opportunities.”

The I Wish 2017 survey highlighted the huge role that teachers play in influencing students’ subject choices, and our research clearly shows that teachers want to be more informed about STEM careers and opportunities. With this in mind, we are introducing a new programme at this year’s I Wish events which includes teacher workshops, unconscious bias training, engagement with STEM industry experts and representatives, as well as briefings by Science Foundation Ireland about its Smart Futures programme. We hope to grow the “Teach It” programme to ultimately include short ‘internship’-style training with our industry partners and sponsors Dell EMC and VMware, ARUP and other leading technology, engineering and life sciences companies.”

More than 2,300 girls aged between 14 and 17 years participated in the I Wish survey, making it one of the largest surveys ever undertaken of Irish secondary school girls on attitudes to STEM and what influences them when making Leaving Certificate subjects and career choices.

Accenture facilitated the assimilation of the I Wish survey data which revealed that teachers are the ‘gatekeepers’ to both extra-curricular STEM activities and subject options.  According to the I Wish survey, the top three influences in Leaving Certificate subject choices were directly related to teachers; the influence of parental recommendation was 15%, and friends only 4%.

Dr Ruth Freeman, Director of Strategy and Communications at Science Foundation Ireland commented: “Science Foundation Ireland is delighted to continue to support the I Wish initiative through the SFI Discover Programme, as part of our commitment to making STEM accessible to all. It is vital that we support young females in experiencing STEM and encourage them to explore the diverse career paths that a STEM qualification can present. By shining a light on female role models from across STEM industries and academia, outreach programmes like I Wish are helping to inspire the future coders, engineers and scientists of tomorrow.”

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