“We think it’s important but don’t quite know what it is” : The Culture of Engineering in Schools

To meet the skills that will help drive the Government’s industrial strategy, the Institution of Mechanical Engineers is publishing a report.

The report is the culmination of two research studies that explored perceptions and experience of engineering in secondary school education.

The proportion of the future workforce with engineering and other STEM skills will significantly determine the UK’s future economic success. Yet the low visibility of engineering in our schools means that the nation is heavily reliant on a narrow cadre of young people, often from families with engineering heritage, to become the nation’s industrialists, manufacturers, innovators and designers. This cannot be right if the UK is to make the best use of all of its talent. Our schools should play a greater role in changing the way we frame engineering.


1. As part of its industrial strategy, Government should situate engineering at the heart of schools education by:
  • Setting up a working group of leading educationalists and other stakeholders to review and report on innovative ways to integrate engineering into young people’s education
  • Appointing a nationally respected Schools Engineering Champion to provide a channel of communication between schools, government and industry and to advocate the wider cultural value of greater technological literacy alongside the economic rationale for investing in skills to prepare for the Fourth Industrial Revolution.
2. National Education Departments should begin this process by ensuring that engineering is integral to classroom learning by:
  • Advocating curricula that better reflect the importance of the made world to modern society, and make explicit reference to the engineering applications of science, mathematics, and design and technology
  • Promoting approaches to teaching that emphasise and value engineering ‘thinking skills’ and problem-based learning.
3. Individual schools should adopt an engineering vision and strategy, with support from local employers and national governors’ associations, which would include:
  • Appointing a member of the school senior leadership team as an engineering & industry leader to establish and communicate a vision for the school and to drive change 
  • Appointing a dedicated Industry School Governor to work alongside and advise the engineering & industry leader and to embed employer relationships in school governance
  • Implementing a robust careers strategy such as the benchmarks set out in The Gatsby Foundation’s Good Career Guidance report, with special emphasis on embedding careers awareness in the curriculum.
4. The engineering community should present a unified narrative around engineering that will be attractive and relevant to a wider range of students by:
  • Stressing the creative problem-solving nature of engineering, its social benefits and relevance to individuals
  • Providing opportunities for students to take part in activities that explore the political, societal and ethical aspects of technology.

Related links

The Culture of Engineering in Schools: supplementary materials


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