Daljit Kaur is a force to be reckoned with. Named as TeenTech Teacher of the Year in 2015, Daljit has worked tirelessly for many years to create an environment where pupils are encouraged to explore their own innovative ideas. This determination has worked: her teams at the TeenTech Awards have won every year since 2013. Impressive – but Daljit, Head of STEM Innovation at Loughborough Grammar School, is only just getting started…
How did you first become involved in STEM?
My story is a little bit unique as my subject made me stumble into STEM. I was Head of IT and there was a national initiative to stop IT and start doing computing, so alarm bells started ringing. However, this uncertainty led me to explore, and that’s when I came across some tech competitions. This then sparked my interest as it made me realise that there were many amazing STEM opportunities out there for young people. In 2013, I had a team in the TeenTech Awards and they wanted to make an app, but I had never made an app before. So, I thought, ‘Oh, how can we do this.’ I never said no to the boys, as that’s one thing I will never do. I have always inspired the pupils by saying, ‘You can achieve whatever you want to achieve if you put your mind to it’. Consequently, we made the app and it won!
How do you encourage pupils to be involved in STEM?
I think as long as you create a safe space where pupils aren’t going to be told off if they get it wrong, then they will give it a go. Pupils have a curiosity for the subject and they are very forward-thinking, they just need someone to say, ‘go forth and fly’.
What are your thoughts about the gender gap in STEM?
Yes, proportion-wise there are more men in STEM but if you properly look around, you will find inspiring women. For example, in the field of engineering there are many women doing a remarkable job and they are ambassadors and pioneers in their field. The numbers might not stack up quantity-wise, but the quality is definitely there. Through my teaching I have seen that girls are very hesitant to try something new. However, I think it is because of their age, not gender-based. The younger girls are afraid to go straight in, but the boys are never phased. That’s why I like boys and girls working together in STEM as when the girls see the boys do it, it pushes them to have a go as well. I don’t think the girls have these thoughts about STEM being only for boys, they just have a fear about breaking things!
Do attitudes need to change towards STEM?
I think attitudes need to change at government level. The policy-writers need to be aware of the difference we need to see in education. Schools need to make the UK a pioneering country again. We are seen as world leaders, but when you compare our education system with those in China, for example, it’s not relative.
Since you started teaching in 2005, what has been your proudest moment so far?
There have been so many. My journey in STEM has taken me to Buckingham Palace (with the TeenTech Awards), Google headquarters and even to China. I could pinch myself sometimes!
How did it feel to win TeenTech Teacher of the Year?
It was bizarre and incredibly overwhelming! But with the TeenTech Awards, I can’t take the credit as the pupils work so hard at it. When you work hard, then you get success.
The past year I have travelled a lot and when you visit different countries you realise that the world isn’t that big and there are lots of STEM initiatives happening all over the world. I want to look further afield and find more opportunities for pupils, so watch this space!
Loughborough Grammar School: lesgrammar.org