Press Release: Students advocate for STEM education reform in Ottawa

By: Shawn McGuirk

November 17, 2016

Quick links: Download the official press release as PDF, the executive summary of the STEM white paper in English and French, or the full STEM white paper. Pour la version française du communiqué de presse, cliquez ici.

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Science & Policy Exchange

Dialogue Sciences & Politiques                                                                                              17/11/2016

“Students advocate for STEM education reform in Ottawa”

Montreal, QC:

Recognizing a growing anxiety among graduates of STEM (Science, Technology, Engineering, Math) programs, a group of graduate students from Montreal brought an often overlooked student perspective to Canada’s science policy discussion. Science & Policy Exchange (SPE), a student-run non-profit organization, released a report on STEM education in Canada at the Canadian Science Policy Conference (CSPC) as part of a larger strategy of discussions with student groups, provincial ministers, university administrations, and policymakers to put student recommendations into action.

“We believe that students must be included in high-level policy discussions,” says Shawn McGuirk, SPE president and PhD student at McGill University, “student perspectives are rarely considered even when the outcomes of policy discussions affect them directly.”

The report, which argues for more pathways to make sure students can succeed outside academia and that students need to be taught how to better market themselves and their skills, was received with enthusiasm by experts present at CSPC. This “skills gap” was highlighted as a top-priority issue that remains to be addressed in Canadian science policy.

“This unique report offers key strategies and solutions identified by graduate students on how to improve policy by eliminating barriers to STEM education across the talent and skills eco-system in Canada,” says Paul Dufour, a science policy professor at the University of Ottawa and SPE Board Director who also participated in the working group. “Adoption of its recommendations will assist in enhancing our science culture for present and future generations.”

The report, entitled “Student Perspective of STEM Education in Canada: Strategies and Solutions from an Expert-led Working Group”, identifies central issues to be addressed including an over-reliance on memorization and a lack of career awareness and critical skills. Solutions to these challenges have been proposed, such as reducing class sizes, development of interdisciplinary courses, training for critical skills, and support for career planning. These recommendations were informed by a working group organized by Science & Policy Exchange in November 2015, which convened both students and experts and included input from Rémi Quirion, the Chief Scientist of Quebec and Peter Gluckman, Chief Science Advisor to the Prime Minister of New Zealand.

The unveiling of the report on November 8th 2016 in a joint panel with other science education advocacy groups: Let’s Talk Science and the Information and Communications Technology Council at the 8th Canadian Science Policy Conference marks a milestone for the students who are part Science & Policy Exchange (SPE).

Science & Policy Exchange, whose mission is to expand the conversation among academia, policy makers, and the general public to inspire evidence-informed policies, can be contacted at and their report can be accessed at