Big Ideas: The future of engineering in schools

Our report calls for a major rethink about the role of schools and colleges in promoting widespread engineering literacy.

The Big Ideas project identified a series of options upon which to build a compelling vision of the future of engineering education in UK schools.

The report proposes that pupils should be explicitly taught about engineering and the manufactured world as part of existing lessons from primary level upwards. It also calls for maintaining a broad curriculum for all until the age of 18 and for more flexible entry requirements for engineering degrees. 

Together this would create a more engineering-literate population with a greater appreciation of engineering, equipped with improved professional and personal problem-solving skills. In turn, this would increase the size of the pool from which future engineers could be drawn. 

Supported by the Royal Academy of Engineering, the report includes provocative ideas from a range of leading thinkers in engineering about effecting radical change in UK engineering education. It explores how their ideas resonate with 2,500 teachers, parents, young people, employers and engineers, as well as outcomes from an international Big Ideas workshop.

Peter Finegold, the Institution's Head of Education and Skills and Lead Author of the report, explained: “We have an engineering skills shortfall at a time where technology looks set to increase its dominance over much of our lives. Our schools need to adjust to this reality, both by increasing the number and breadth of young people choosing engineering careers, and by empowering those who do not.” 


Big Ideas suggests 10 long-term goals:

  1. Promote engineering as a people-focused, problem-solving, socially beneficial discipline.
  2. Work to enhance the presence of engineering and the ‘made world’ at all stages from primary level upwards.
  3. Ensure that apprenticeships and other technical pathways not only deliver high quality technicians but also enable individuals to progress to the highest levels of engineering.
  4. Broaden routes into engineering degree courses by promoting more flexible entry requirements.
  5. Maintain a broad curriculum for all young people up to the age of 18.
  6. Shift the emphasis in STEM teaching towards problem-based, contextualised learning.
  7. Nurture engineering ways of thinking in all young people.
  8. Create more spaces and opportunities for young people to design and make things particularly by working collaboratively in interdisciplinary groups.
  9. Use Design and Technology as a platform for integrating STEM and creative design and for raising the profile of engineering in schools.
  10. Change the structure of schools education to embed engineering explicitly at all levels.

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