The impact of country of schooling and gender on secondary students' conceptions of and interest in becoming an engineer in Ireland, Kenya and Sweden.
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Background Given the disparities in gender representation, efforts are needed to make engineering education more inclusive and attractive to young people. It is important that those entering engineering education are making this decision with sufficient understanding of what it means to be an engineer. This study explored how lower secondary education students from Ireland (n = 435), Kenya (n = 436), and Sweden (n = 361) stereotyped engineers, and their interest in becoming an engineer was examined. The Draw an Engineer Test was used to achieve this, and ordinal and logistic regression analyses were conducted to compare the effects of students’ genders and country of schooling on the genders and concepts of their drawn engineers, and on their interest in becoming an engineer in the future. Results A Sankey diagram illustrated significant complexity in the interaction between conceptions of engineering work and fields of engineering. Chi-square tests of association were used to examine the association between students depicting an engineer as either the same or a different gender to themselves and their interest in becoming an engineer. The results of these and the regression analyses indicate that young people’s gender explains more variance in the gender of drawn engineers and the country they are studying in explains more variance in their conception of engineers. However, most variance was explained when both students’ gender and country of study were considered together. Further, particularly for young females, drawing a female engineer as opposed to a male engineer was positively associated with increased interest in becoming an engineer. Conclusions There is a need to develop a greater understanding of engineering in young people to ensure they have sufficient information to make decisions regarding related educational pursuits. National-level attempts are needed to present accurate depictions of engineering, and effort needs to be invested in ensuring that young females can identify as engineers. Higher educational access needs to be considered in future work examining future career interests.
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