The Institute of Physics is keen to remove any barriers to the participation of different groups in physics. In recent years, it has worked hard to understand the varying levels of participation among students from different ethnic minority groups.
A pilot project – “Opportunities from Physics: Interventions in a multi-ethnic school to increase post-16 participation”
From 2009 to 2011, in partnership with a school that offered A-level physics and had a high proportion of students from ethnic minority groups, the Institute ran a pilot project to determine which science enhancement and enrichment activities were most effective in stimulating black and ethnic minority students' enjoyment of physics.
The lessons learnt from the pilot included the importance of understanding the interests, motivations and aspirations of specific groups of students to develop tailored interventions, the importance of engaging parents, the impact of embedding careers information into lessons and the fluidity of subject choice as students’ progress through school.
For more information on the findings of the pilot project and the lessons learned, read the full report “Opportunities from Physics: Interventions in a multi-ethnic school to increase post-16 participation”
Participation of ethnic minority groups in physics
Between 2006 and 2008, together with the Royal Society of Chemistry, the Institute published two reports investigating the participation of students from ethnic minority groups across the entire education spectrum. One interesting observation from the statistical report was that students from certain Asian backgrounds were very well represented in higher education in general but significantly under-represented in physics, despite being eminently capable of taking the subject at A-level and beyond.
There were indications that reasons for this situation included ignorance of what physics was and what career choices were available from it. The influence of family was also a strong factor in many cases. These findings provided the foundations for the 2009 pilot project.
The progress of students in England and Wales from different ethnic groups through the educational system into undergraduate chemistry and physics courses
A report from the Institute of Physics and the Royal Society of Chemistry examining the factors underlying the subject choices of ethnic-minority students