Uneven Interest in STEM Subjects Across the World

STEM is a stream that integrates teaching and learning of science, technology, engineering, and mathematics. It usually takes a hands-on approach with real-world learning experiences. It also pays very well, which makes it very desirable. Despite the ample opportunities that are available to STEM students, there is an uneven interest in STEM across the world.

Region-Specific Interest

North and Central Africa, the Middle East, and India have the highest interest in STEM subjects. Students from Asia, South-Central Europe, and South and Central America generally have more interest in non-STEM subjects. It is in the regions of North-East and North-West Africa, the Middle East and Nepal that has 53.6% interest in STEM. North and Central Africa, a pocket in northern South America and South Asia has a 47.2% interest in preference for STEM. North America, Oceania, Western and Central Europe, and South Africa have about an equal measure of moderate interest in STEM and non-STEM disciplines. 

In Germany, 36% of students choose stem subjects in tertiary education, while only 19% of American students chose STEM subjects. 

In 2016, China had 4.7 million recent STEM graduates, India had 2.6 million new STEM graduates and the U.S. had 568,000. 

Subject-Specific Interest

Even within the ambit of STEM subjects, some subjects are preferred over others. Engineering, manufacturing, and construction are the most popular categories that are chosen in STEM in the selected countries (Italy, Australia, India, Germany, UK, USA, Spain, South Korea and France). The exception to this is the United Kingdom where Natural Sciences, Mathematics and Statistics take the lead. 

Factors Impacting STEM

It has been documented that governmental preoccupation with the level of STEM participation in Senior Secondary school and the level of achievement in STEM-related disciplines in both secondary and higher education is universal. Building high-end STEM skills that are linked to R&D and industry innovation is also given importance. Even then, the discussions are limited to curriculum, pedagogy, student motivation and teaching, and there is a lack of focus on universities as compared to schools. In China, the government exercises great interest in education to labour transition than governments in other countries. Even though the emphasis on STEM for its assumed contribution to productivity and innovation in the workplace is there, there is hardly any effort directed to establishing the extent of these expected benefits to the economy. In some countries, there are concerns about the decline in the number of students taking up STEM subjects, and also about shortages of STEM skills in the labour market. In East Asia and Singapore, there is universal recognition of the importance of education and STEM gets a superior position, especially in secondary and higher education. In China, mathematics is compulsory throughout the school. There is an emphasis on enhancing the position of universities globally, and there are comprehensive programs aimed to reform schooling systems and make them more student-centered, inquiry-based and problem-solving in approach. Despite the crippling shortage of STEM graduates globally, the number of STEM graduates is growing every year. As a matter of fact, there are enough STEM graduates to fill all positions; the problem lies with their education level and professional skills. Even where educational qualifications are apt, soft skills such as leadership and teamwork are lacking. The courses are insufficiently aligned with the industry and have led to a lack of qualified technicians. There are more students with higher degrees and complex level courses with lesser opportunities than for other mid-level STEM jobs. In India, ‘Brain Drain’ leads to a loss of talent that is important for economic, political and social progress. Countries such as South Korea, Vietnam, Israel and Singapore have managed to create a strong ecosystem to address the challenges in supply and demand in STEM. In doing so, they have achieved astonishingly rapid social and economic progress. It is the model that could be adopted by other countries in its entirety for equally encouraging results. 

Scope of STEM

  • Australia: In 2015, the Australian Government formed the National STEM School Education Strategy 2016-2026 to focus on developing mathematical, scientific and digital literacy; and promoting problem-solving, critical analysis and creative thinking skills. The STEM Partnerships Forum was established in 2017 to bring together industrial and education leaders to facilitate a strategic approach to STEM Education. 
  • United Kingdom: Among the various organizations that support STEM education, STEM learning delivers STEMCPD and a STEM ambassador program, and the British Science Association develops reports and resources for supporting STEM learning. Scotland, Wales and Ireland have their STEM education programs that address various areas of development. 
  • United States of America: The STEM Education Strategic Plan sets out a federal strategy for the next five years to ensure access to high-quality STEM education and make the United States the leader in STEM literacy, innovation and employment globally. 
  • New Zealand: The government has been promoting STEM education in schools to ease the STEM skill shortage. Efforts are underway to place high-performing STEM graduates and digitally confident teachers in the sphere of education.
  • India: India launched the ‘Skill India’ campaign in 2015 and it aims to train more than 400 million youngsters in different skills by 2022. One of these is STEM education.  

The implication of the growing focus on developing infrastructure and curriculum to support STEM literacy is that there is going to be more manpower to take the ever-increasing number of jobs in STEM. Since 1990, employment in STEM has grown by 79%. 


The top five countries where you should consider studying STEM are:

  • USA 
  • UK
  • Canada
  • Australia 
  • Germany

The most popular STEM courses are:

Petroleum Engineering | Computer Engineering | Mathematics | Aerospace Engineering | Nuclear Science & Engineering | Software Development | Chemical Engineering | Management Science | Biological Sciences and Microbiology

Some of the most popular universities offering STEM courses are: 

  • Concordia University, Chicago
  • Louisiana State University
  • Western Michigan University
  • California State University
  • Fresno Campus
  • Auburn University
  • University of South Florida
  • Saint Louis University
  • University of New Hampshire
  • University of South Carolina
  • New Jersey Institute of Technology
  • University of Central Florida
  • Pace University
  • George Mason University

 To know further about how STEM can be beneficial to your chosen career and the courses and universities that you should be applying to, visit: www.aplicar.io


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