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STEM Young Scientists Barometer 2020: Too many underachieving students in STEM segment

May 6th, 2020

STEM Young Scientists Barometer 2020 by acatech and the Körber Foundation shows what efforts are needed in the education system | Online study presentation on Wednesday, May 6, 2020, at 01:00 pm

The current corona crisis demonstrates the relevance of STEM education: scientists explain principles of virology and calculate models for the course of the pandemic, companies are switching their production to medical technology and materials - and school education is becoming digital. STEM is "systemically relevant", which is why it is necessary to strengthen STEM education and the next generation in a sustainable manner.

The STEM Young Scientists Barometer 2020 by acatech - German Academy of Science and Engineering and the Körber Foundation shows where the problems lie and what efforts are needed in the education system to improve the quality of STEM education.

Declining benefits, large at-risk group

The mathematical and scientific achievements of 15-year-olds have been declining continuously since 2012. Around 20 percent of this age group belong to the risk group, because they lack the necessary level of mathematics and science to successfully continue their education at school or at work. This is alarming, especially for mathematics which is a key qualification for many STEM professions.

Furthermore, there is a considerable difference between the federal states in mathematics: the gap between the ninth grade pupils in the best and weakest state corresponds to a learning difference of about two school years. Fundamental skills in the use of digital media are lacking in digital education. In fact, 33 percent of all students in the eighth grade are considered underachievers. In upper secondary school, only one percent of young people choose an advanced computer science course. And only just under 14 percent of high school graduates are able to systematically search for information on the Internet and assess it in terms of credibility. 

It's the teachers that matter: Increasing Demand in STEM

The number of student teachers in the STEM fields is growing. In 2018, for example, around 6,800 young adults began studying to become mathematics teachers - around 1,400 more than in 2015. However, only two percent of all student teachers chose to study computer science. So there will continue to be too few computer science teachers. Many schools are responding to the growing demand for STEM teachers by appointing teachers from other subjects: 10 percent of mathematics teachers in the 9th grade at grammar schools teach without having studied the subject, and depending on the region, this figure is even higher. Teacher training therefore plays a vital role. 

STEM as a basis for innovation and the future

"Thanks to Corona, digital education has experienced a boom in recent weeks, but we were also made aware of what we had missed: the cross-school practice of basic computer and information-related skills - both among students and teachers. For this, too, we urgently need to invest in the education and further training of teachers in the STEM sector, and in doing so we need to put teachers' in-service training to the test: Effective further training leads to measurable learning success for students," says Olaf Köller, Managing Scientific Director of the Leibniz Institute for Science and Mathematics Education (IPN) and head of studies of the STEM Young Scientists Barometer.

Tatjana König, Executive Director of the Körber Foundation, emphasizes the urgency of ensuring good STEM education for all students: "We cannot accept that 20 percent of a class misses the educational goals and thus the educational opportunities! We need sustainable education that gives children and young people equal opportunities regardless of their social and cultural backgrounds and promotes their talents individually and without bias. The negative trend in learning success, particularly in mathematics and computer science, is worrying because both subjects teach basic skills that are fundamental to a great many career prospects and are also the prerequisite for self-determined participation in society.”

acatech President Dieter Spath emphasizes the importance of STEM for Germany as a center of innovation: "In times of a pandemic, it becomes clear how vital STEM is for survival - which should ultimately have a positive effect on the social perception of STEM education. We must therefore now focus in particular on the broad and top-level promotion of STEM skills among students, as they are central to a successful transition to STEM training occupations and subjects. This is how we create the conditions for innovation and prosperity in the Germany of the future.”

Online study presentation on Wednesday, May 6th, 2020 at 01:00 pm

The central results of the Trend Report are presented by Prof. Dr. Olaf Köller, IPN, head of the study, in an interview with Christiane Stork, program director of the Körber Foundation.

When: Wednesday, May 6th, 2020, 01.00 to 02.00 p.m.

Where: The study presentation will be streamed online:

Download STEM Young Scientists Barometer 2020

The STEM Young Scientists Barometer 2020 is available online:

About the STEM Young Scientists Barometer

The STEM Young Scientists Barometer is a nationwide trend report. The report collects and comments on the most important figures, data and facts on the junior staff situation in the STEM sector from early education to vocational training and studies. The compact overview provides an empirically sound planning and decision-making aid for those responsible in education, politics and business. The STEM Young Scientists' Barometer is jointly published by the Körber Foundation and acatech - German Academy of Science and Engineering, and compiled by the IPN - Leibniz Institute for Science Education and Mathematics.

Further Information

On the editors' project pages you will find the complete brochure "MINT Nachwuchsbarometer 2020", as well as "MINT Nachwuchsbarometer 2020 In Zahlen" (MINT Young Scientists Barometer 2020 In Figures) with all data on which the study is based: