Students Choice Of Stem Fields Education Essay

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Abstract- In this paper we study the interest of students in the United Arab Emirates (UAE) from grade 9 to 12 in Science, Technology, Engineering, and Mathematics (STEM). Surveys were distributed to students who chose STEM tracks and students who chose non STEM tracks in public and private schools, as well as universities, across the country. The data collected revealed a number of reasons that make students like, or dislike, scientific majors. These reasons include the presence or absence of capable teachers, the influence of role models and the choice of the teaching language. The results presented in the paper also focus on differences between public and private institutions, male and female students, as well as nationals and non-nationals. We also compare our findings to similar research done in the USA. We show that several factors remain valid in both countries whereas others are specific to each of them. This paper also provides suggestions on the way to overcome the challenges in STEM field. Although this paper is based on data collected in United Arabs Emirates, the solutions can be applied to any other region of the world.

Keywords - STEM; Students survey; Engineering; UAE; Self efficacy; Role models; Peers; Parents, K-12.


Many countries are currently attempting to improve their school systems, making the teaching of Science, Technology, Engineering, and Mathematics (STEM) more important. This is seen as the key educational ingredient that will ensure innovations in future [1-6].

The suggested trend for 21st century national economies is to reach the penultimate label of being "innovation based" or "knowledge based" [1, 2]. According to the much heralded and respected "The Global Competitiveness Report" from the World Economic Forum, an innovation-driven state of any economy is the most sophisticated level to which it matures [1-3]. An innovation-driven economy is judged based on the sophistication of business and its ability to nurture technological creations [1-4]. The scientific survey points to the fact that in order for economies to be "innovative", they must possess an advanced education system. Without this, innovation will be unobtainable [1-4].

In a concerted effort to diversify and strengthen its rising oil-based economy, the United Arab Emirates (UAE) has taken upon itself to revamp its whole education system, especially in instruction of science, technology, engineering, and mathematics [4, 7]. The United Arabs Emirites is not a leading contributor in science and technology developments in the Middle East [7, 8]. Though there has been debate over the nature, scale, and to a degree the existence of this problem, most experts seem in agreement that the problem is real and increasing with time [9, 10]. In UAE, the lowering trend of STEM interested students attaining degrees will negatively affect the workforce available for industry [4, 8]. Therefore, UAE's educational system must provide highly skilled STEM workers in order to reach its 2030 Vision of becoming a self-sustaining and innovative economy [4]. Although STEM subjects may be taught with the utmost vigor and high aspirations, this does not guarantee that the students will major in STEM fields and become innovative and productive members of STEM professions [5, 6]. There are many barriers or "switch-off" factors that affect students' choices of studies for further education and/or future careers.

This paper consists a starting point for an ongoing research into modeling the interest of UAE's students in the STEM, as done in [5] with regards to the USA education system.

The paper is organized as follows:

In Section 2, we discuss previous results in literature related to the topic.

In Section 3, we introduce the research methods adopted for the sake of collecting the required data.

In Section 4, we analyze the results and compare our findings to existing ones.

In section 5, we provide the results and the conclusions arrived at from the study

In section 6, we provide various suggestions on solving the existing problems.

In section 7, we provide the limitations of the study.

In section 8, we conclude with several remarks and an outlook for upcoming research projects.


Recently, there has been existence of initiatives and publications related to the overall understanding and the experiences of minority particularly doctoral students. The University of Arizona researched the considerations that students take as they decide to apply to a course in a graduate school [11]. The sample population of the research comprised of students who applied in Arizona and the responses varied out by gender and race (Minority versus White). The top aspects for all applicants in the doctorate program included department reputation, correspondence between student interests and degree program, research conducted by an individual faculty associate, whether there is accreditation of the program, department's receptiveness to questions, overall school reputation, and other external forces. For the minority, on the other hand, aspects such as recommendations from faculty to other institutions, printed resources from the department, and propinquity to the home of the students were highly vital than they were for the overall population. For minority and women, the reaction of a program to the question posed by the applicant also played a highly crucial role. Therefore, the appropriate recruitment of underrepresented teams demands different training and techniques that what is crucial for the majority set [11].

The University of Maryland has published their judgments about victorious programs to create a diverse doctoral student institution on the organization [12]. Some of the programs include Professoriate (AGEP) and Maryland Alliance for Graduate Education. These programs are modeled around comparable successful programs for graduates at other institutions. From these programs, the researchers found some components to be particularly imperative in sustaining minor students before and after graduating. These components include: preparation of graduate learning (application support and GRE); graduate admission (changing the admission strategies); graduate program selection (factors to take in consideration); peer support (with a student who has advanced in the student's disciplines and also through interdisciplinary circumstances); summer bridge programs (bonding of students and academic preparation assessment); faculty role models and mentors( from the student's research advisor and from other department); stable and adequate staff support, professional development and financial support (support needed for the student to pursue in his desired discipline); and exposure to the occupation (funding to yield successful minority graduates to campus for a long or short period, funding towards travelling to professional conferences). It is significant to note that these components focus more on altering the doctoral programs in the university, other than of forcing the students to change [12].

In addition to the research done by these universities, some non-academic institutions have put focus on issues relating to students joining universities. The Woodrow Wilson Foundation produced a report in 2005 on minorities in doctoral programs [14] and doctoral programs in general [13]. The Foundation established four vital factors that institutions have put in use for improving doctoral education [13]. These are: new practices (the means at which they can make aspects of doctorial training be developmental); new paradigms (what promotes or discourages truly exploratory scholarship?); new partnerships (improved relationship between the sectors that employ doctorate recipients and academia); and new people (the doctorate should ensure that all people in the population feel incorporated and their researches are socially applicable). Putting these issues into consideration, the Foundation concludes that the doctoral experience will advance for all students despite their gender and race.

Underlying the four factors are four principles studied in the report and that has practical application in the institutions. These principles include: Universities should possess a centralized and strong graduate school with imperative power and budge; the graduates should be seen in a vacuum with little or no concern for how the research is affected by or affects the society; students form different backgrounds should be included in these programs; and there should be regular assess of doctoral programs using rational rewards, objectives and consequences. While some institutions follow these principles, others do not follow them. Therefore, through the analyzed report, the Foundation anticipates causing change in the operations and mentality of these institutions so that they can alter the reality of education.

Also, the Foundation recommends the use of seven principles to improve the experiences and recruitment of minority doctorate students: research, communication, intellectual support, professionalizing experiences, vertical integration, leadership, and mixture of race and gender [14]. It is crucial for programs to communicate efficiently so that they have a position to share best practices and resources. Additionally, students should conduct research in order to analyze how programs work and what to add so that they can perform better than before. Vertical integrations analyzes how k-12, undergraduate, and graduate programs should work together to ensure that students engage often and early with them. The Foundation recommends that, in intellectual support, the doctorate should be socially responsive ad should also improve the picture of the programs so that they can become attractive to a large audience. The issue of professionalizing experiences and monitoring consists of issues related to the relations between a student and his or her advisors, as well as issues on finance that might push a student away form the chances to interact with his or her professional colleagues. Race and gender principal describes how graduates should try to take in consideration race as well as the requirement in admission, programs, and financial help, other than concentrating on the need as several programs do in order to evade negative views of confirmatory action. Finally, leadership principle focuses on the government and its agencies so that they can provide better oversight and assistance on the use of national funds. Leadership principle imperative for it ensures that there is right usage of funds on the desired programs and people. Whilst some of these principles are close to those suggested by the Foundation, some of them are specifically focusing to the minority experience [14].

The Council for Graduates Schools lately founded the Ph.D. Completion project to scrutinize issues relates to time to degree and retention of students in doctoral programs [15]. This program has corporate funding from Ford and Pfizer. Students in various degree programs from a group of universities were set as a sample population. Then there was the distribution of surveys to get an improved understanding of the experiences of students who graduates and who leave their studies without graduating. From the original research for the project, the satisfying practices that they put across were the utilization of the mentoring, program environment, research processes, mode, and procedures, and financial support. These practices support the points put across by the Woodrow Wilson Foundation.

Finally, a private-public partnership referred to as Building Engineering and Science Talent (BEST) has an analysis of the practices that work well to maintain the underrepresented students in STEM fields [16]. These experimental practices include targeted recruitment, institutional leadership, peer support, personal attention, engaged faculty, bridging to the next point, enriched research experience, and personal evaluation and continuous program [16].

Science education among the United States residents lags extremely behind than that of other developed nations. Implicit notion of this statement is that the quality of science literacy in USA elementary and high schools is not as precise compared to European and Asian countries. Students, specifically those of ethnic and racial descents, have little perceptive of science terms such as DNA and photosynthesis, or even the straightforward fact the earth rotates around the sun. Reasonably, an understanding of a scientific idea is lacking among the entire population but particularly among low income and minority students [17]. Aggravating the circumstance is unawareness on the part of science educators of the slight misconceptions that these students bring to the classroom which make it complex for them to theoretically grab scientific resources. Consequently, the number of competent students to learn science, engineering and mathematics after secondary school graduation is remarkably negligible.

There is the use of aforementioned best observations and practices to inform the questions used in this research. As discussed earlier in the Introduction section, this study seeks to better understand the experiences of STEM and non STEM graduates and the factors that facilitate their decisions to move along pathways leading towards professoriate. It also focuses on the underrepresented students in the STEM fields and clearly brings out the factors that make students pursue or not to pursue in STEM fields. In order to tackle this to completion, there is the distribution of surveys whose responses will conclude the findings of the study.


Various studies exist with different suggestions about the reasons why students choose to study or not to study STEM fields. These studies point out several reasons why students pursue or do not pursue with STEM fields after completion of their secondary education. There exist some cognitive factors that affect students' choice of majors. Firstly, their attitudes and beliefs towards STEM disciplines play a crucial role on this. Emotional, psychological, behavioral and physiological propensities which reveal an individual's perceptions and responses to, interaction with his immediate background define cognitive dispositional features. Earlier studies found that there is relationship between two cognitive aspects in the completion and enrolment of unnecessary (or college preparatory) mathematics and science courses- student's self efficacy concerning science and mathematics topics and their interests in both [18]. More studies [19] show that all ethnic groups possess similar aspirations and positive fields for STEM occupations. On the other hand, as minority students continue with their academic disciplines, their interest in mathematics and science related topics decrease as their achievement in these classes weakens. Self efficacy is another cognitive factor that affects the choice of students major. Empirical researches show that students have a high possibility to sign up for science courses if they maintain high ranks of self efficacy in the science area [18]. The possibility of choosing science or engineering courses enhances with students' awareness that they possess mathematics background or a solid science and in the certainty that they have the capability to perform best in those disciplines. Self efficacy is the strongest forecaster in the consideration of STEM disciplines as a career choice. Reference [19] validates the motivation and significance of self efficacy in foretelling performance in science and mathematics. Minority students possess lower self efficacy in mathematics and science than the other students. Minority students in STEM fields have complication when it comes to perceiving themselves as scientists, even after expressing their interest in STEM careers [20].

One of the most commonly cited rationales for inspiring students to enjoy STEM subjects is good teaching that involves capable teachers [5, 6, 21-24]. The teacher's "capability" can be defined as his/her role and personality in the approach to delivering the academic curriculum [21-24]. The learning environment, or the relationship between the learner and teacher, dictates the outlook of the potential STEM and non STEM interested students. For example, educators who are aware that memorization of content may not be the best method of assessment for learners and diverse methods of pedagogy should be taken into account to reach multiple intelligences tend to produce students who may be more successful [6, 21-24]. According to reference [25], anxiety of mathematics and science has its origins in teaching and in teachers of science and mathematics. Explaining this, they argue that students do not have anxiety before attending school hence, they relate this to the teaching method and the notion that science and mathematics is somewhat dreaded from the first years learning of a child. Adults and teachers may emphasize that science related fields are hard, whereas they indicate that the skills attained from the field are vital for future accomplishment. If unqualified teachers are forced to teach science related courses, they project signals to students hence scaring students to pursue or complete theses majors [25]. Frequently, students' encounters with STEM can force them to feel incompetent especially when presented by educators who do not like STEM. Some teachers may not possess the preparedness to deal with psychological fear of STEM, nor do they have preparedness to handle the defense strategies and mechanisms their students utilize to defend themselves from appearing to fail in STEM.

Prior academic preparation often affects the student's choice of fields to major. In most cases, student decides that a major in the STEM is not he would like to pursue. The uncertainty to stay enrolled in a STEM field is probably influenced by the student's attending mathematic training prior to registering in an institution and his academic aptitude. More exclusively, student achievement in the structure of a grade point and math SAT performance is in association with the persistence of students in STEM majors [26]. Students who earn high math SAT score do not only perform high ranks of participating in mathematics and science clubs but also enrolled in more advanced courses and were more engaged in math and science activities in secondary school. Students with prior academic preparation in STEM have more chances to pursue in majors of STEM disciplines. Studies also show that lack of enough science and mathematical training at the secondary and elementary level has a negative effect on the students' interesting secondary mathematics as well as academic preparation, science coursework and in majoring in STEM fields [18, 27]. In conjunction to the aforesaid prevalence of tracking of minority students into the lower class science and mathematics disciplines, it seems that the quality of the academic readiness many minority students receive has a negative impact from the differences among school funding, teacher's quality, and money spent on instructional programs. Minority students in most cases get taught by teachers who do not major in that field or even inexperienced teachers who pursue the fields. Minorities have more possibility of receiving funding discriminations in the K-12 education compared to other students [28]. This is because the systems used for funding do not give equal amounts every student exposing minority students to risk of acquiring less funding. Hence, these students have a greater exposure to high quality, challenging mathematics instructions, further daunting their interest in science or mathematics [28].

Commitment of the student to STEM major also has a role in determining whether the student may pursue the major or not. The emphasis on the student's involvement to a particular major one enrolled, as in STEM), is as crucial as developing an early interest in STEM disciplines in K-12. A tough involvement to a STEM degree is a persuasive predictor of student perseverance [26]. Minorities who express deep satisfaction with science and engineering as their field of study (or committed to STEM careers) have high possibility of persisting in STEM disciplines. Amazingly, though, researcher points that serving as a leader or role model on campus discouraged students' commitment to STEM. The student who put more emphasis on leadership or services is more likely to turn to non STEM majors. One could contemplate that effort and time that is essential to succeed in mathematics and science related field is very challenging leaving less time for students' social incorporation on college. Involvement in such areas like political groups, student government or athletic support teams pulls students away from their laboratory and study time [29].

Misperception of STEM disciplines also has an extreme effect on the student's decision on the major to pursue. Minority students utilize various criteria when defining an effective curricular program [30]. Non minority student scrutinize general coursework as college or academic preparatory courses and start to develop occupational and educational as untimely as eighth score and start making occupational pronouncement like engaging in extracurricular activities and college-prep courses. However, minorities perceive overall coursework as separate from extracurricular activities taken at one time during secondary school [30].

Another commonly cited reason why students are turned off by STEM subjects is the obsession to receive "high marks" [31]. Due to the relative difficulty of receiving high grades in STEM classes in comparison to other subjects, students are often discouraged from taking STEM subjects.  As a result, students' emphasis on achieving high grades outweighs their interest in taking subjects related to Science and Mathematics. Consequently, they abandon their interest in STEM majors [32].

In addition, many studies provide insight into the "switch-off" factors, showing that they might come from the influence exerted by the parents, students' peer groups within and outside school, role models and the media. Researchers in [33] suggest that families play a critical role in the career choice of their children. The educational background, occupations and aspirations of the parents are important factors, introducing the concepts of cultural and social capital to this process [34-36]. Encouragement from the parent is one of the strongest forces that facilitate the student's early education aspirations. It is not surprising if a student whose parent studied and worked in STEM field decides to choose STEM discipline as his major. This happens because those parents help to instill the belief that STEM careers are successful and applicable in people's lives. Though in [37] the researchers found no impact on female students from exclusively the level of education of their parents, they did find a vital impact of parental encouragement and support. It is clear that children have a high possibility of choosing gender-atypical courses if their parents have slight education. It is crucial to note that gender stereotyping can result as an influence from parents.

In [21, 38, 39] it has been shown that students are influenced by their peers who often stress the 'uncool' aspects of STEM thus preserving negative stereotyping. Reference [38] found that peer achievement positively affects students' achievement in academic. For instance, a peer attitude towards mathematics increases, so does an individual's attitude towards mathematics. At an early stage of development, parents sustain their place as the premier social power for their kids, but as the children grow, their peers take the influential role [39]. Deviant peers may expose the deviance behavior from one person to another in the peer group. This brings up the proposal of curriculum tracking: putting students in levels or classes based on their achievement or ability level, or particularly not doing so, turns out to be an appealing topic when scrutinized through the angle of influential peer support. If peers attend the same classes, they have a higher possibility of meeting than if they never shares classes. Added to the overall secondary school spectrum is homophonous character of social networks, a widely accepted phenomenon that measures the tendency of the English proverb that says that 'birds of the same feather flocks together'. For all students, social life in secondary schools and universities becomes an entire world of challenges and issues [39].

The role of role model is clear when it comes to influencing a student's choice on the career to major. The idea of role models partly cover that of peers, although a role model can be any other individual who puts inspiration to the student while a peer is a person with similar age with the student or with similar stand in the course of life. Role models in the life of a student can be teachers, parents, peers, people in same the neighborhood, or other kin. Just as with the capability of grouping in classes, some students' selection of role models is advantageous while not in others. In addition, just like many others factors in life, socio-economic status often determine the opportunities and choices of role models. Role models possess the power to influence children choices of future careers, education, overall behavior, and can condemn or support gender biased judgments, which becomes particularly significant for adolescent girls. As reference [40] explains that, starting from female teachers to female professionals to mothers or other female relatives employed in STEM fields, they offer a tangible image of what is achievable for adolescent girls in their lives. Family support highly influenced the effect that the enrichment agenda had on female students.

Perceptions and characterization of STEM in the media also play a significant role in the acceptance and rejection of STEM. In [36, 41] the media is accused of igniting and perpetuating negative stereotypes about STEM. There is a stigmatization of its degree of difficulty and a reinforcement of the perception that STEM is only for the academic elite. Nevertheless, considerable portions of youth are positively influenced by the media [42, 43].

Another often cited reason for losing interest in the STEM is the absence of technology based instruction in classrooms. Often, students report that they choose other majors simply because of the meager quality of instruction they get at the college level. However, a positive contentment of a students' academic program is one of the foremost factor in attainment of degree for both major and non minor students. Research proves that as minority students identify their STEM fields as pleasant, they are likely to persist in studying those courses ignoring their complexity [44]. Researchers in [44] insist that the lack of modern technological infrastructure in the classrooms retards the growth of STEM-interested students. Active learning and positive use of technology to enhance professional developments, e.g. using online resources/mentors, computer-assisted instruction, service-learning, can help transform traditional, lectured-based pedagogy into well-received, interesting STEM classes [45-49]. A rescheduled consequence of the student's interest and commitment in his field is that it helps the faculty in teaching classes and unlocks opportunities for students to carry out research independently or in conjunction with the faculty [45]. In response, these experiences serve to enhance the student's fulfillment with their faculty members, majors and their general academic understanding. Among the majors in biology science, the presence of a student centered faculty is in question relating to the general fulfillment of student with the faculty and curriculum. Enhancement of satisfaction with faculty happens to follow various factors as, for instance, the anticipation that regardless of the major which the students choose. Among physical fields of system, the presence of a strong faculty research only helps to discourage students to pursue the major and to have dissatisfaction with their study program. While some researchers theorized that the finding is probably the outcome of the principal utilization of teaching educators among research faculty, a more satisfactory assumption is that the major of attention paid to scientific investigation and findings is not what the students waited for in class [47].

Financial support also plays a huge role in determining whether a student will pursue in STEM major or in non STEM major. Basically, STEM disciplines take a longer period of time to complete than other non STEM fields. Therefore, intervention of financial aid has to be present to encourage the student to pursue in these disciplines. As such, the significance of financial aid on keeping students enrolled and interested in STEM careers or majors is clear. Adequate financial support is one of the main factors related to the perseverance of minority students in STEM disciplines [48].

The type of institution that a student attends is also of great significance when it comes to making a decision to pursue STEM disciplines . Students who attend community colleges are more probably not to major in STEM disciplines. From the research, it is evident that student who enroll in four year institutions are more likely to complete their STEM studies that those who attend community colleges [48].

Furthermore, researcher in [50] points to the role that gender and stereotypes play into the retention of women in STEM college programs. Researchers in [51-53] also point to the lack of women in STEM college programs due to negative stereotypes about women in STEM careers , e.g. STEM is a "men's only field" and "women can't think analytically". Existence of negative stereotype in the society saddens student's personal assessment skills, impacts his or her performance, and discourages the development made by them. Stereotypes impact students' career aspirations and decisions, directing them away from degrees and careers in STEM disciplines. This can suggest that adjusting negative stereotypes about women in the STEM field by increasing the confidence of young women about their involvement in STEM may increase numbers of women successfully studying and working in STEM disciplines [50-55].  

Following the lack of in-depth field research about the factors that cause UAE students to choose STEM and non STEM fields, this paper considers the starting point of a research project that aims to determine which barriers emerge as the most prominent for United Arab Emirates students, between grades 9 and 12, being switched off STEM and pursuing further education or careers in the field.

research Methods

The methods of research for this project consisted of the following procedures meted out to both public and private schools. Since the United Arab Emirates is a socio-cultural collage of people originating from different nationalities, these surveys were sent to both institutional sectors, especially since the majority of expatriates attend private schools. Although differences and similarities arising among public/private schools, male/female, and Emirati/non-Emirati were compared and contrasted, the overall goal of the research, as reflected in the questionnaires, was to investigate what motivates students to pursue a STEM related education.

Students from a representative sample pool answered a questionnaire that consisted of twenty-five questions. These questions are separated into six major categories. These categories are:

Usefulness and value of STEM for students.

Effective motivation of students for STEM majors.

Students' views on STEM related careers and salaries.

External influences on students to pursue a STEM related major.

Language in which STEM courses are being taught.

Females and their role in STEM majors and careers.

As stated, the factors that make the participants interested in STEM were the main reasons desired to be extracted from the data. The questions are accurate to the goal of deciphering factors that lead to further future development of STEM education.

Overall, one thousand participants, (six hundred and twenty six STEM interested and three hundred and seventy four STEM non-interested) were taken from a representative sample of students from grades 9 to 12 from multiple schools across the country, as well as a group of university students. Within this surveyed group were males and females, nationals and non-nationals, and public and private school students. These differences were tracked to a certain extent in order to understand the nuances of the stated identities. Also, the questionnaires sent to the STEM and non STEM students were identical except that the ones sent to the latter had the STEM questions negatively phrased in order to focus on the reasons that lead these students to escape STEM than the ones that pushed them to pursue non STEM majors. The ranges of available responses were: strongly disagree, disagree, neutral, agree, and strongly agree. Moreover, for the university participants, two versions of the survey were distributed: one for STEM majors and another for non STEM majors.

Results and Discussion

The general findings of the data, displayed in Fig. 1 and Fig. 2, suggest two major conclusions: On one hand, both groups agree on the usefulness of STEM for real life, that STEM majors lead to high rewarding careers, and that STEM fields are suitable for females. On the other hand, the groups disagree regarding how capability of teachers, society, and language of education influence the choice of the major.

Statement of results

In relation to their lives, eighty seven percent of the STEM students believed that STEM disciplines are useful in their lives. Nine percent had neutral responses while four percent argued that STEM fields were not relevant in their lives. On the other hand, eighty percent of the non STEM students disagreed with the fact that STEM disciplines were irrelevant in people's lives. Ten percent hada neutral stand while ten percent supported that STEM fields were irrelevant in the lives of individuals.

Focusing on how STEM careers are relevant when it comes to earning good livelihood, eight percent of STEM students sample thought that STEM careers do not enable an individual to have excellent livelihood. Twenty one percent of the population held a neutral stand on the issue though seventy one percent supported that STEM careers enable one to afford a good livelihood. With the non STEM sample population, fifty eight percent of the population disagreed with suggested fact that STEM students do not earn excellent livelihood. However, twenty four percent of the students agreed with that fact while eighteen percent held a neutral stand.

Regarding how likely do STEM fields seem to solve social issues, seven percent of the population thought that these fields do not solve social problems. Sixteen percent remained neutral on the matter as seventy seven percent suggested that STEM fields are very vital when it comes to solving problems. On the side of non STEM field responses, sixty three percent of them disagreed with the raised issue that STEM does not solve social problems. Thirteen percent remained neutral while twenty four percent supported the issue of STEM not solving social problems.

The question of the relevance of STEM disciplines in general is also in the survey. Seven percent of the STEM students had a stand that STEM fields are not useful subjects to a student. Seventy five percent possessed a stand that STEM subjects are highly useful in their lives while eighteen percent had no clear stand on the issue. On the non STEM students' side, seventy nine percent of the students opposed that STEM fields have useless subjects. However, nine percent of them supported the statement while twelve percent held unbiased decision.

It was also significant to know how many students like STEM subjects regardless on whether they are STEM students or non STEM students. Four percent of the STEM students did not like STEM subjects; eleven percent remained neutral whilst eighty four percent of the students liked the subjects. This shows that few of the students studied the field but did not possess the interest of the field. On the other hand, thirty six percent of non STEM students liked STEM subjects as thirteen percent held an impartial decision on the issue. Nevertheless, fifty one percent of non STEM students disliked subjects found in STEM fields.

The survey also focused on the issue whether there were capable teachers in high school so as to investigate whether they had an effect on why students did not take STEM fields and careers. Fourteen percent of STEM students confirmed that high school teachers were incapable of delivering the STEM subjects effectively. Twenty eight percent did not possess any stand while fifty eight percent argued that there were capable teachers in high school who delivered well in teaching STEM disciplines. Focusing on the responses given by non STEM students, five percent supported that there were capable teachers in schools to teach STEM subjects. However, ninety one percent of non STEM students supported that there were no capable teachers to teach STEM courses in high school. On the other hand, four percent gave neutral responses.

Capable teachers in university level are essential in making sure that students pursue on these fields. Five percent of the STEM students believed that there were no capable teachers to teach in STEM fields. Seventy four percent disagreed with this and argued that there was presence of capable teachers who teach STEM subjects effectively, but twenty one percent had no definite stand. Regarding this issue, nine percent of non STEM students opposed that there were non capable teachers in university level to teach STEM disciplines while four percent gave neutral stands on the issue. However, eighty seven percent of the students supported the statement that there were no capable teachers in university level to teach STEM classes.

Performance of students in STEM was also a central idea to focus the reason why student choose other fields instead of STEM fields. Seven percent of the STEM students confirmed that they got low grades in STEM subjects. Opposing this, sixty nine percent of the students argued that they achieved high performance while twenty four percent possessed an impartial stand. On the side of non STEM students, thirty four percent disagreed with the statement that they got low grades in STEM subjects. Sixteen percent remained neutral while fifty percent argued that they scored low marks in STEM compared to other fields.

On the question of disliking memorizing or thinking subjects, only fourteen percent of the STEM students liked memorizing subjects. Seventeen percent had a neutral viewpoint while sixty nine percent disliked subjects that involve memorization (i.e. arts, history, law, humanities). On the other hand, twenty five percent of non STEM students opposed the idea that they disliked subjects that require deep thinking and problems solving (i.e. Math, physics, chemistry). Fourteen percent of the students gave unbiased responses while sixty one percent agreed that they dislike thinking subjects.

Regarding their view whether they would get advanced academic degrees (i.e. master's degree, PhD) in STEM majors, six percent of the STEM students disagreed with that. However, eighty six percent were sure that they would get an advanced degree while eight percent were not sure. When asked how non STEM students thought about advancement in STEM fields, twenty eight percent opposed the information that it is difficult for STEM students to acquire an advanced degree. Three percent gave neutral feedback while sixty nine percent supported the statement that STEM students may find it difficult to get higher academic degrees in their majors.

In regard of job opportunities in STEM fields, four percent of the STEM students sample argued that STEM did not provide high job opportunities to the graduates. Eighty one percent had an opposite stand and believed that STEM graduates had an exposure of several job opportunities. Fifteen percent of the population, on the other hand, had an unbiased perspective on the matter. Focusing on the responses given by non STEM students, sixty eight percent disagreed with the fact that STEM field provide low job opportunities to its graduates. However, eighteen percent supported this issue while fourteen percent did not decide on the side to take.

The question whether STEM jobs attracted high salaries to their employees was also present in the questionnaire. Four percent of STEM students said that STEM careers paid low salaries; twenty three percent had a neutral viewpoint while seventy three percent believed that these careers paid reasonable salaries to their employees. Considering the feedbacks given by non STEM students, seventy four percent of the students disagreed with the statement that STEM professionals earn low salaries in the STEM market. Eleven percent took a neutral stand while fifteen percent of the students agreed with the statement that STEM graduates earn low income in the job market.

Regarding the qualities of the people who choose STEM fields, eleven percent of the STEM participants thought that it is not only innovative people who chose to major in these disciplines. However, sixty two percent strongly believed that many of the students who chose STEM were innovative. Twenty seven percent of the sample had an unbiased stand. Regarding the people types who choose STEM fields, sixty seven percent of non STEM sample population opposed the statement that innovative people do not choose STEM. This showed that they supported the believe that only the pioneering students choose STEM fields. Thirteen percent of them supported the statement while twenty percent of the sample population gave unbiased feedbacks.

The respect for STEM careers was also an imperative point of studying. Four percent of STEM students stated that STEM majors have occupations that are not respected by the society; twelve percent did not have a definite response while eighty four percent possessed respect for STEM occupations. Analyzing responses given by non STEM students, seventy seven percent of them disagreed with the stated statement that the society do not show respect for the people work in STEM careers. This clearly shows that even non STEM students supported and gave respect to STEM careers. Sixteen percent of the population, however, gave unbiased responses while seven percent of them accepted that STEM professionals have less respected occupations.

With respect to working as a STEM teacher after graduation, fifty eight percent of STEM students opposed that. However nineteen percent were comfortable working as a STEM teacher after receiving their STEM degree, but twenty three percent were not sure of that issue. Focusing on the other group of sample population, sixteen percent of non STEM students responded that they would work as STEM teachers in future. Fourteen percent had a neutral stand while seventy percent of the non STEM population agreed that they would not work as STEM teachers in future.

Working in STEM careers also attracted varied responses with ten percent of the STEM students preferring to choose careers that are not related to STEM industry. However, seventy seven percent preferred to work in a STEM related industry while thirteen percent did not give a specific answer on the question. Non STEM students also gave different responses on this matter. Seventy three percent of them preferred to work in STEM industry while eighteen percent did not provide a specific answer of whether they prefer or not prefer to work in STEM industry. However, nine percent did not prefer working in STEM related industry and they preferred other jobs in non STEM industry.

The question whether students minded on working on other careers attracted various responses. On the STEM student population, forty six percent disagreed with the statement that they did not mind working in any career. This means that they preferred working only in STEM careers. Thirty percent held a neutral stand as twenty three percent agreed that they did not mind working on any career. On non-STEM population, sixteen percent opposed the statement which stated that they did not mind working in STEM careers. However, sixteen percent remained neutral while sixty eight percent supported that they did not mind working in STEM careers.

Some parents were supportive to students about the studying of STEM education. Fifty six percent of the STEM students supported that their parents had positive influence on them towards their selection of STEM majors. Twenty seven percent remained neutral on the issue while seventeen percent said that their parents had negative reactions towards them joining STEM education. Focusing on the role of parent to non STEM students, seventy eight percent of them disagreed that negative influence of their parents made them not to choose STEM education. Thirteen percent gave neutral feedbacks while nine percent supported that negative influence from the parents made them not to choose STEM fields.

The effect of parents' encouragement and discouragement to join STEM careers was also the main focus of this study. Fifty seven percent of the STEM students argued that their parent did not give a negative influence towards their decision of choosing STEM careers. This means that their parents encouraged them to pursue STEM occupations. However, twenty seven percent remained unbiased on this matter while sixteen percent argued that their parents had negative attitude towards STEM careers. Looking at the responses given by non STEM students, seventy five percent opposed the statement that negative influences from parents make non STEM students not to choose STEM careers. However, eight percent supported this while seventeen percent gave unbiased response regarding the effect of negative parental influences to pursue STEM careers.

Concerning the influence of friends, thirty six percent of the STEM students acknowledged the significance of their peers in helping them join STEM fields. Forty one percent, on the other hand, suggested that their peers had negative perspective on their choice of STEM disciplines. Twenty three percent had a neutral stand on their peers' influences towards their choice of majoring in STEM fields. Looking at the influence of friends on non STEM student as a reason that they did not choose STEM fields, forty six percent disagreed with the statement that negative influence from their peers made them not to choose STEM disciplines. However, forty three percent agreed with the fact that negative influences from the peers played an important in their decision of not choosing STEM disciplines while eleven percent gave neutral feedbacks.

Role models and their influences were also part of the survey conducted. Twelve percent of the STEM students disagreed that role models had a positive effect on their choice of STEM disciplines. However, sixty seven percent agreed that they received positive influence from role models towards choosing STEM courses. Twenty one percent however, remained unbiased about the positive impact of role models. On the other hand, twenty nine percent of non STEM students opposed the idea that negative influence from the role models facilitated their choice of not choosing STEM disciplines. Seven percent gave neutral response while sixty four percent believed that negative influence from their STEM role models had a great impact on their choice of STEM careers.

Regarding the question about good English proficiency consideration, seven percent of the STEM respondents disagreed with it. On the other hand, fifteen percent remained neutral while seventy eight percent agreed that good English skill was necessary for joining STEM majors. From the non STEM side, twenty six percent disagreed that English language was an obstacle to their success in STEM majors. Two percent remained neutral with their responses while seventy two percent supported that their low English proficiency prevented them to pursue STEM fields.

Suitability of STEM fields to females is one of the major concerns for many females choose not to major in STEM fields due to stereotypes that STEM disciplines are only fit for men. Nine percent of the STEM population pointed out that STEM field was unsuitable for women. Nineteen percent had no say on the matter while seventy two percent argued that STEM fields were also suitable for females as it was for the males. From the responses given by non STEM students, fifty nine percent opposed that STEM fields were inappropriate for female students and emphasized that females had equal rights like males in the STEM disciplines. Eight percent of the population took a neutral stand while thirty three percent supported that STEM fields were inappropriate for girls.

Social perspectives on STEM fields were also vital to the study. Seven percent of the STEM students argued that their society had negative views on the female students pursuing those disciplines. Fourteen percent did not give a definite answer while seventy nine percent said that their society had positive views on the women who majored in those disciplines. Looking at the responses given by non STEM students on societal view about females' involvement in STEM fields, fifty eight percent of the students opposed that their society held negative view on females who studied STEM disciplines. However, thirty five percent supported that their society had a negative perspective of women who major in STEM fields. Seven percent had a neutral response to the perception of their society on the girls who study STEM majors.

It was also vital to research whether STEM students in the UAE are comfortable about learning STEM subjects and working in the fields using mixed (females and males) or single groups. Fourteen percent argued that the fields only engage mixed group instructional methods in teaching and careers and this may be inconvenient for students, particularly females, who prefer to study and work with their gender only. Thirty three percent were not sure of their decision while fifty three percent pointed that STEM fields does not necessary require studying/working in mixed groups of both males and females and thus STEM students are free to select their groups. Regarding the use of mixed groups, forty two percent of the non STEM students disagreed with the statement that STEM fields involve studying/working in mixed groups of both males and females and that contradicts their beliefs/traditions. Twenty percent of the students did not decide whether the fear from working in mixed groups that mostly required in STEM disciplines affected their choice study hence taking a neutral stand. However, thirty eight percent of the sample population supported the statement that STEM fields require mixed groups and that not suitable for some students, especially females, who prefer single group strategy. This means that the thirty eight percentage supported that both male and female should not go through the learning process together.


Regarding the usefulness of STEM and career opportunities, seventy seven percent of STEM students and seventy percent of non STEM students believe that STEM subjects are useful in real-life. Moreover, sixty percent of STEM students and fifty six percent of non STEM students agree that STEM graduates have an excellent job perspective. Thus, the prestige and lucrative perspectives of STEM jobs do not seem to be the ultimate binding factors that lead students to pursue STEM majors from those who choose non STEM majors. Many assume that economic opportunities and prestige are the main driving forces behind students' choices with respect to their field of study. However, from the data, both STEM and non STEM hold STEM's job outlook in a similarly favorable light. STEM careers are many and applicable in the lives of many people. They help in solving social issues like that of unemployment. There is a shortage of STEM workers in many countries for example United States. This means that many students do not study STEM fields thus creating a wide gap in the job market. There are several efforts put by the USA government to ensure that student choose STEM fields. The most cited one by several researches is financial support it provides to these students. The support may encourage many students to go for STEM careers because one of the problems which students in these fields face is a lack of financial aid. This is a quality strategy utilized by the government of the USA to ensure that students choose STEM disciplines as their majors in College level [27].

In the category on external influences to studying STEM, fifty four percent of STEM students and fifty seven percent of non STEM students admit that friends, parents and role models can play key roles in their choice of the major. Friends, according to the answers, do not have as much of an influence. Both STEM and non STEM students responded with quite mixed and balanced responses. Interestingly, for non STEM students, "strongly agree" and "strongly disagree" were the responses that appeared the most in the sequence of questions related to external influences; no other category of questions possessed this extreme. Meanwhile, role models, that can include career advisors, guest speakers, or professional acquaintances, had oppositional effects on the two groups. While STEM students saw them as a boost to choosing a STEM field, non STEM students viewed them in a very negative light. While friends seemingly have little to do with a student choosing a STEM major, parents have different roles to play. Indeed, results point clearly to parents for they have a major effect in the education choice of their children. Nonetheless, non STEM students responded oppositely, stating that their parents did not have an influence on them not choosing STEM education or career paths. This last conclusion would need more investigation because it could be interpreted in one of two ways: either non STEM students totally disregard their parents' insistence to pursue a STEM major if it was proposed, or the parents do not make the effort encourage their children to consider STEM as academic path. According to respondents, parents are perceived to play two starkly different roles for the two groups. Lack of presence of parental, peer, and role model support may influence students' choice of career selection. Parents' encouragement plays a significant role in determining what a student pursues. Some parent may be reluctant, as in the study, to provide guidance in career selection of a student. Peers are also imperative in determining what their colleagues' majors. In many occasions, peers choose to study the same course because mostly, their interests are alike. Role models also influence the selection choice of a student's career. Children learn by observing making them copy what their role models do. Our findings reflect the results of research discussed earlier in [21, 33-40] regarding the influence of friends, parents and role models on students' enrolment choices.

Most significantly, the capability of the STEM teacher and the language in which STEM courses are being taught are shown to have a stark impact for both subsets, however in different ways. In the category of motivation for studying STEM, seventy three percent of STEM respondents like STEM subjects and show a desire to get advanced degrees in STEM fields, they are in fact motivated by the capability of their STEM teachers and their high grades in these subjects. In contrast, sixty eight percent of non STEM respondents expressed dislike for STEM subjects and do not have a desire to get advanced degrees in STEM fields. They showed a lack in motivation for STEM due to the absence of STEM capable teachers and their low grades in these subjects. The majority of STEM respondents (school and university) agree/strongly agree that their STEM teachers are "capable", while most of the non STEM respondents stated that their teachers are "not capable". For the latter, these couples with the respondents stating that a large majority actually do not like STEM subjects or find the subjects difficult. This leads to the belief that teachers, and their professional capabilities or lack thereof, wield a crucial role in influencing the students choosing STEM. Additionally, the high response of STEM students of having "capable" teachers may be a basic reason why these students get higher grades and show a strong desire to get advanced degrees in STEM courses, basically the reason why they like STEM. Nevertheless, the dominance of "non-capable" STEM educators, in the eyes of non STEM students, may be the reasons why these students overwhelmingly do not choose STEM. The same results on the role played by "capable" teachers was discussed in [5,6, 21-24]. Capable teachers of science and mathematics related subjects especially in secondary school play a significant role of ensuring that students choose STEM fields while incapable high school STEM teachers discourage students to pursue the fields. It is therefore vital if institutions hire teachers who possess the interest and capability of teaching STEM related fields. Incapable teachers in university level force many students to leave STEM fields. The instructional methods that a teacher uses play a great role in determining whether a teacher is capable or not [21-24].

Furthermore, the command of the English language appears to have a significant effect on students' choice of STEM or non STEM. As shown in Fig. 1, almost eighty percent of respondents admit that English, or their ability/confidence in using the language for academic purposes, is good enough to pursue a STEM field. Conversely, Fig. 2 shows about seventy one percent of the respondents expressed that English is an obstacle for choosing STEM as an academic path. This result coincides with previous ones obtained in the USA [67] in the same majors, as well as in the UAE though in different majors [66]. Most universities in the UAE use English as the teaching language for STEM subjects. Therefore, it becomes an obstacle making students with low English proficiency to admit STEM colleges.

In addition, participants' views of females and their role in STEM majors and careers suggest that sixty eight percent of STEM students and fifty three percent of non STEM students strongly perceive STEM as an empowering field. This could suggest that STEM may be seen as a liberating or redemptive outlet in a region where men are dominant in both academic and economic fields. Stereotype either by parents or society as a whole has great influence on what students choose especially females. Some societies still hold the outdated belief that men are the only people who can study STEM fields and get satisfying grades. They argue that women do not have the required knowledge or capability to study these fields. They also argue that women should concentrate on family issues rather than science issues. These stereotypes play a great role in discouraging women to pursue STEM fields therefore causing misrepresentation in the field. From our study, the majority of students approve that their societies support women to enter in STEM fields and such result contradicts with previous ones obtained in different countries [50-55]. However, some students approve the opposite, and this shows that this is a problem that needs concentration from professionals. There is a need to teach people the effectiveness of women pursuing STEM fields so that the society can show positive attitudes to the women in these fields. Teaching people may also increase self efficacy to the discouraged females in the society. Self efficacy is very vital for it is the main determinant of whether a student pursues STEM fields or not [50, 56-59].


Increasing self efficacy

Students, women in particular, aptly competent in Mathematics refuse to pursue in mathematics related professionals because they possess low self efficacy sensitivity about how competent they may be [56]. Self effectiveness is the belief in an individual's ability to tackle a certain task. It can also refer to the judgments concerning one's capability to execute and organize the courses of action essential to achieve a specific goal. Self efficacy judgments should have relations to particular tasks in a given domain [57]. For instance, assessment of self efficacy in Mathematics can use this question, "What is the level of confidence do you have that you can attain a grade of B or above in math?" [58].

There is a need to motivate efficacious students to succeed; they set high goals (for example grade goals), use more efforts to attain the set goals, and additionally, they are resilient when complications arise [58]. Consequently, people with high STEM self efficacy normally attains better and persists for a longer time in STEM fields than those who possess comparatively low self efficacy in STEM disciplines [57, 59]. In addition, self efficacy makes a prediction of academic achievement beyond his previous accomplishment and ability [57].

Several researchers focusing on gender differences favors men on the issue of STEM self efficacy, and also in the possibility of success in STEM related disciplines [57]. "Confidence gap" is the term used to refer to the gender difference in alleged STEM competence. The "confidence gap" subsists despite comparable academic achievements, such as STEM disciplines grades [57, 60] and is partially responsible for the gender difference in engineering and other STEM fields, including physics, astronomy and computer science [61].

Development of self efficacy beliefs is through the elucidation of performance conclusions. These beliefs focus on four basic sources of information: vicarious experience, mastery experience, psychological reaction, and social persuasion [57].

Vicarious experience- this refers to the learning that takes place through observing other people perform a given assignment. Role models are in particular influential when perceived as comparable to the observer. This implies that interactions with female members of faculty and advanced student in STEM disciplines would have a positive effect on the self efficacy of female students. It would also have positive consequence to studnets who possess little or no first hand assignment experience. Indeed, occasions to observe the successes of other people are prominent for the development and growth of STEM self efficacy for females [56]. It is therefore importnt for practitioners to create vicarious learning experiences that integrate chances for students to observe the performance and practice of STEM professionals and peers in STEM fields. To do this, firstly, they should allocate group work in which teams have composure of similar ability students. Preferably, at least one member of the group should possess slighly higher science or math skills than the rest so that he can serves as a role model to the other group members. Secondly, they should invite advanced STEM professionals and STEM students into classrooms to discus and work with students. Thirdly, practitioners should provide influential role models when students recognize similarities between themselves and the models. For instannce, self efficacy of a girl pursuing science is more positively facilitated by interacting with a young female pharmacist than an older male pharmacist.

Mastery experience- this refers to past performance and experience with a given assignment. Mastery experirnces provide efficient evidence of whether a person has the ability to succeed. Failures lowers self efficacy while successes in results boost it. Reseach in [57,58] explains that mastery es