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STEM in England: Meanings and motivations in the policy arena

Research output: Contribution to journalArticle

Vicky Wong, Justin Dillon, Heather King

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)2346-2366
Number of pages21
JournalInternational Journal of Science Education
Issue number15
Early online date7 Nov 2016
Accepted/In press27 Sep 2016
E-pub ahead of print7 Nov 2016


King's Authors


STEM, an acronym for Science, Technology, Engineering and Mathematics, is widely used in science education. There is confusion, however, as to its provenance and meaning which is potentially problematic. This study examines the purpose of STEM practice in education in England and asks if there are differences in perceptions of STEM between science and mathematics educator stakeholders. The study’s contribution to the literature is its unusual focus on those who were responsible for making and enacting national STEM policy. A two-phase qualitative approach was followed comprising an analysis of government documentation together with semi-structured interviews with key contributors to the science and mathematics education discourse. Findings suggest that there is a disconnect between the interpretations of the science and mathematics educators with a danger-advantage dichotomy to participation in STEM being perceived by the mathematics educators. Early aims of the STEM agenda, including increasing diversity, gave way to a focus on numbers of post-16 physics and mathematics students. We conclude that if the term STEM is to continue to be used then there is a need for greater clarity about what it represents in educational terms and a wider debate about its compatibility with the aims of science education for all.

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