SCIENCE should be compulsory in Scottish secondary schools to encourage more women into careers in “male” industries such as engineering.
Gijsbert Stoet, a psychologist at Glasgow University, said the change is necessary to increase the number of girls studying science, technology, engineering and maths – the so-called Stem subjects.
Dr Stoet’s comments follow a survey which showed that female pupils in Scotland feared Stem subjects were far too difficult.
Nearly 50% of female students believe that stem classes were better suited to boys.
Most secondary school pupils take general science classes up to the end of S2 at which point they chose National 5 subjects and many girls give up science, maths and other “hard” subjects.
Dr Stoet said: “Despite many efforts, the attitudes of girls to Stem – and boys in other domains – are just really hard to change, if at all possible. People try but no major breakthroughs have been made.”
The academic said giving girls “prolonged exposure” to Stem subjects “will likely lead to smarter and better-informed choices later on”.
But he admitted: “This will be politically very difficult to implement.”
Stuart Farmer, teacher network coordinator at the Institute of Physics in Scotland, said more needed to be done at home as well as in school.
Mr Farmer, who is also a physics teacher in Aberdeen, said: “It is interesting that the research has highlighted how poorly prepared parents believe they are to advise their daughters on Stem subjects and careers.
“Why should they feel less prepared advising their daughters than their sons, given that opportunities are open to all? This vicious circle can only be broken by better-informed parents and young children.”
Lindsay Murphy, CEO of science entertainment company, Be Experimental, said: “ When I am running workshops and doing shows with nursery and school children, they are all so inquisitive and most find science fascinating – both girls and boys can and do excel in the sciences.
“People can be scared of science, and a lot of children think you have to be extremely clever to be a scientist, when in fact all you need is something, or someone to spark your interest.”
The City of Glasgow College recently introduced a female-only engineering course to try to tackle the gender-gap after women said they would lack confidence in a mixed class.
The engineering course would usually only attract one or two girls for the 25 class spaces.