After describing the problematic pattern of student enrolment in science and technology, the chapter suggests a series of underlying reasons for the difficulties that have arisen.The description is necessarily tentative and exploratory, and it is intended to present ideas for a discussion of possible explanations.
Meaningful and independent participation in modern democracies assumes an ability to judge the evidence and arguments associated with the many socio-scientific issues that appear on the political agenda.
In short, modern societies need people with scientific and technological qualifications at the highest level as well as a general public which has a broad understanding of the contents and methods of science and technology, coupled with an insight into their role as social forces that shape the future.
In many countries, there is also a growing gender gap in the choice of scientific and technological subjects at both school and tertiary level.
Many countries have had a long period of steady growth in female participation in traditionally male fields of study, but this positive trend seems now to have been broken in some countries.
Universities and research institutions are anxious about the recruitment of new researchers, and education authorities are worried about the already visible lack of qualified teachers of the scientific and technological subjects.
In some countries, the difficulty of recruiting sufficient numbers of new entrants to the teaching profession has become a matter of national concern, especially when the level of recruitment does not even allow for the replacement of those who are retiring.
Our societies are dominated and even 'driven' by ideas and products from science and technology (S&T) and it is very likely that the influence of science and technology on our lives will continue to increase in the years to come.
Scientific and technological knowledge, skills and artefacts 'invade' all realms of life in modern society: the workplace and the public sphere are increasingly dependent on new as well as upon more established technologies.
The trend is consolidated in admissions to tertiary education.
A similar trend occurs in some areas of engineering and technology studies.