MSPs are to consider whether there has been a narrowing of subject choice for pupils in Scotland’s schools.
The Holyrood education and skills committee said an inquiry will be held into what impact subject choice in schools is having on young people. Members will specifically explore the extent of, and basis for, any narrowing of subject choice.
The committee is concerned that a reduction in subject choice as pupils enter the senior phase of school (S4-S6) can potentially affect their qualifications for college, university and the workplace.
Teachers, parents and pupils will be included in the inquiry to find out whether a narrowing is taking place and what this means in practice, as well as the effect on future prospects for students whether they are moving into work or continuing in further or higher education.
It will also examine the level of uptake of particular subjects, including those in the science, technology, engineering and mathematics (STEM) category.
Committee convener Clare Adamson said: “Subject choice may seem like a small issue but it is one which can have far-reaching consequences. Ensuring that our young people can achieve to their full potential is something that we all want to see.
“For young people to have the perception that their future options may be limited by the subject choices that they can take at school is something that must be avoided.”
She added: “We want to hear about the impact of the availability of particular subjects as well as what factors influence subject choice, such as school size, local decision-making and timetabling.”
Recent figures found the proportion for female STEM students had seen “at best, incremental improvement, and, at worst, further decline”.
The Royal Society of Edinburgh (RSE) report stated that there had been “a significant drop in the number of women enrolling” in subjects including computer science and software development at further education level.
Several schools have also reported issues in filling vacancies for teachers in STEM-related subjects, with many advertising roles a number of times before they are filled.
Scottish Conservative education spokeswoman Liz Smith said: “The decline in subject choice is one of the biggest concerns being raised by parents across Scotland and it’s something we’ve been raising with the SNP for several months now.
“The real worry is that pupils from poorer areas are losing out the most.
“Nicola Sturgeon has made cutting the attainment gap her key priority – but how can children from poorer backgrounds progress if subjects in key areas aren’t on offer?”
Ms Smith added: “Holyrood’s education committee report will be very important given the evidence which is being taken from key witnesses, but it should not have been necessary.
“The SNP should have spotted the warning signals many months ago.”