Inspiring tomorrow’s engineers with hands-on learning

Jun 21, 2022

Hands-on learning is a great way for young people to explore their ideas through project work. In this month’s The Engineer column Dr Hilary Leevers, Chief Executive of EngineeringUK, places emphasis on the importance of practical learning in engineering and technology lessons at school.

“I’ve been thinking a lot about hands-on learning recently, with some concern. I’m a firm believer in the importance of practical learning especially when young people are given the opportunity and time to explore their own ideas through project work.

“Practical learning occurs across the curriculum, and when thinking about progression into engineering and tech, earlier experiences in design and technology provide the most obvious precursor. Research published by the Education Policy Institute in March this year found that uptake of D&T GCSEs and A levels have halved since 2009. While there had been some increases in vocational engineering post-16, this is not enough to offset the decline in D&T A levels. This is a combination of demand and supply issues with ongoing D&T teaching shortages and the expense of delivery likely contributing to schools cutting the subject.

“Practical work in the other sciences, including computer science, will also be important for inspiring and preparing for progression in engineering and technology. Unlike D&T, almost all students will study biology, physics and chemistry up until the age of 16, but time spent on practical work in science classes had been declining even before the pandemic. Data from Wellcome’s Science Education Tracker 2016 found that most young people in England were motivated by practicals, most wanted to do more, but that those in poorer socioeconomic areas spent less time on practical work.”

Read the full opinion piece on The Engineer website.

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