Thousands of teenagers are being put off studying science and maths-based subjects because they consider them “dull” and “boring”, according to research published today.
However, their popularity in schools could be revived if more TV role models could be found to trumpet their cause, it adds.
A study of more than 1,500 14 to 18-year-olds that 44 per cent believed the so-called STEM subjects (science, technology, engineering and maths) whose uptake is considered vital to the economy were "uninteresting".
In addition, more than half (53 per cent) considered them harder to study than the arts and humanities and 40 per cent thought them less "fun".
Two out of three (67 per cent) believe only people with the highest IQs could work in a STEM-related job while over one in five (21 per cent) thought you had to be a "geek" to follow that path.
The survey, by Mondelez International -manufacturers of Cadbury, Oreo and Kenco, showed girls were particularly likely to be put off following a STEM-based route through secondary school - with only 19 per cent saying they would consider a career in engineering compared with 51 per cent of boys.
Gender stereotyping in schools started at an early age, it added. A third of girls believed careers advice was pushing young women into non-STEM subjects.
The figures emerge after the new president of the National Union of Teachers, Max Hyde, a science teacher from Warwickshire, was planning to make encouraging more girls to opt for careers in maths and science a key priority of her presidency. She said schools should appoint more mentors to steer girls in that direction.
Happily, today's research shows that TV celebrities can be influential in persuading teenagers of both sexes to follow science-based careers routes.
Nearly half (48 per cent) of young people said watching the US TV comedy show, The Big Bang Theory, had persuaded them to become more interested in STEM subjects while 42 per cent cited The Gadget Show and 37 per cent programmes presented by scientist Brian Cox as having a similar effect.
Diane Tomlinson, human resources director at Mondelez International, said: "If we do not prioritise these subjects we face being left behind in the global innovation race.
"It's dispiriting to hear that young people are intimidated by STEM subjects as jobs in STEM can be hugely fun, creative and inspiring and companies nowadays offer great career opportunities with training provided in the more technical in the more technical aspects."
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