“OECD governments must take concrete steps to make science and technology studies more attractive” - that was one of the main conclusions of the international conference on declining student enrolment in science and technology courses. The conference took place in Amsterdam on November 14-15. It was organised by the OECD Global Science Forum and the Netherlands Ministry of Education, Culture and Science. Over two hundred participants from twenty-six countries debated ways to attract young people to science. All of the stakeholder communities were represented: government officials, business leaders, representatives of foundations, education professionals (teachers and those who study the educational process), scientists, students.
OECD analysts presented the results of a study of enrolment numbers, of contributing factors, and of potential solutions. This study documents worrying enrolment trends for fields such as mathematics, physics and chemistry, as illustrated by a decline in the number of university graduates of up to 30-50% over the last 8-10 years in physical sciences, in some countries. The study also describes the complexity of the causative factors involved, and presents some of the interesting remedies that have been tried. Although some of these have met with success, others are too recent to evaluate and, in any case, there is a general need for better evaluation methodologies in this area.
In addition to urging governments to be more concerned about declining enrolments, conference participants identified a number of specific priorities for further action such as:
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