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The Solace of Quantum Physics

Ian Paul
Ian Paul
Editor, Politics Show South

Two-thirds of 16 to 18-year-olds do not think that having a qualification in science would get them a good career.

That is the disturbing finding of a poll of a thousand youngsters conducted by the Science Council.

It also revealed that only a little over a quarter of them thought that the sciences were relevant.

Many were unable to get beyond the idea that studying science plus getting a job equals wearing a white coat in a laboratory for the rest of your life.

The most common reason students give for avoiding science subjects is that they are "too hard" - that put off 30%.

Lady using a megaphone

Then another 27% thought they were "not interesting or enjoyable enough".

Rocket science

For many of the nation's young people it seems it really is rocket science, and they are just not interested.

The problem is that rocket science - and so many other jobs that require science, technology, engineering and maths (Stem) qualifications - are vital for the future economic prosperity of this country.

According to the Science Council, scientists are working everywhere in areas such as finance, art and design, fashion and sport.

Toy train with dry ice
Steam rocket science?

If we fail to produce enough Stem-trained workers, the argument goes, those jobs will vanish overseas to countries that have "done the math" - and the physics, chemistry and biology - and realise that this sort of training really adds up.

Techno Thames Valley

Not that the possibilities are being completely ignored in this country.

A whole raft of companies and organisations in the Thames Valley got together to put on TeenTech, a day of hands-on experience for about 600, 12-14 year-olds.

The demonstrations, experiments and talks were meant to give the youngsters a taste of and an enthusiasm for careers in engineering and the sciences.

One of those doing the demos was Neil Downie, the author of "Exploding Disk Cannons, Slimemobiles, and 32 Other Projects for Saturday Science".

Neil Downie
The trouble is we're growing up a whole generation who won't know how the world works, for them the world will simply be magic
Neil Downie

Tellingly, it sold 13,000 copies in America - and just 10 here in Britain. He sees the problem as a loss of the inquiring spirit.

Science or magic?

"We're losing the hands on culture. We're now into the second generation of kids who are sons of parents who didn't do much stuff at home, didn't have a Meccano set, a backyard or a shed, didn't use them if they had them.

"The trouble is we're growing up a whole generation who won't know how the world works, for them the world will simply be magic."

We would like to hear what you think. Does it matter if the Calculator Generation has to rely on technology to do its sums?

How can we get youngsters to study more science and engineering subjects?

What can be done to make science careers more attractive?

Why not send us an email and join the debate.

Watch the Politics Show with Jon Sopel and Peter Henley on Sundays on BBC One from 12:00 GMT.

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