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'Being a scientist' loses shine for Chinese children

Ecns.cn | Updated: 2017-01-16 09:26

Chinese children no longer dream of becoming a scientist amid changing social values, according to surveys.

Sun Yunxiao, chief researcher at China Youth and Children Research Center, said becoming a scientist was the dream job for many children in the 1980s, which later helped in the rapid development of China's science and technology.

Now science-related occupations have lost their appeal among the young, Sun told Science and Technology Daily, adding that the trend needs to be urgently addressed to prevent a talent shortage.

A study by the center in 2013 showed that 32.3 percent of Chinese high school students want to work in science-related fields, 17 and 12 percentage points lower than in the United States and South Korea respectively.

The study also showed that the older children became, the less they wanted to pursue a science career, dropping from 52.5 percent for elementary students to 47.5 percent for middle school students.

A researcher with the Chinese Academy of Sciences found that becoming a scientist was the third-to-last choice among 1,000 students surveyed, ahead of only workers and farmers.

Another survey, led by China's online recruiter zhaopin.com, showed only 3 percent of women and 7 percent of men respondents said they want to be technical experts. The occupation has much less support from those born after 1990.

The latest OECD Programme for International Student Assessment (Pisa) results in China showed that 16.8 percent of students expect to pursue careers in science, well below the 38 percent figure in the United States and the average for OECD countries of 24.5 percent.

Sun said science fell from favor due to changing social values, which regard science a less rewarding choice and not as prestigious as economics.

Cai Mao, an official with the Chinese Society of Education, said encouraging children's interest in science needs joint efforts from society and may start with relevant curriculum at middle and primary schools.

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