STEM Education in Northern Ireland: Is it an example of systemic failure?
Five years have now passed since the last government review of STEM (Science, Technology, Engineering and Mathematics) education in Northern Ireland (Perry and Irwin, 2015). This small-scale qualitative study set out to analyse the progress made and challenges faced within STEM education in Northern Ireland, and to draw out implications for education and teacher education. Individual filmed interviews were carried out with a range of education professionals and representatives from industry and politics (n=11), followed by small group interviews with pupils finishing the junior phase of their schooling (n=13). Findings reveal high levels of pupil engagement but also, and in contrast to many other countries, the study highlights frustration among STEM professionals at a lack of investment in STEM education at all levels. The study also identifies additional challenges in promoting inquiry-based learning approaches to STEM education in the current high-stakes assessment environment. Conclusions are drawn for education and teacher education.