Underachievement in science, technology, engineering and maths (STEM) subjects at schools continues to be a problem in Europe. Although STEM education is a priority area for most governments in Europe, it seems like there is still a lot of work left undone should we reduce the number of underachievers to less than 15 % by 2020, like the European Union aims at.
It must not be forgotten that those statistics represent only the output of European education systems. In other words, the final assessment of students’ accomplishments throughout their time of study, such as their understanding of their subject, their initiative, ability to complete assignments, both independently and with others, and their level of responsibility, to name a few examples.
Keep in mind all the obstacles and problems on the way towards a better output. Students who lack motivation to study STEM subjects will not fare well in their assessment. Low motivation is perhaps the most crucial problem to solve in order to improve students’ assessment and achievement levels in STEM.
Popularisation of science can help to increase general awareness about the subjects and kind of work that STEM professionals deal with every week. In this sense, there is a need to transform the stereotype of scientists being some supernatural geeky beings in lab coats. Science is open to all those people who are interested in pursuing such careers, where they can find all sorts of jobs where their skills can be of use. After all, there is a shortage of STEM professionals, acknowledged by the European Commission, which plans to train an additional one million by 2020.
What the STEM Discovery Week can offer you
Maths weeks at schools, science fairs organised in collaboration with universities and open houses at research and technology companies are only few ways in which science can be popularised. The STEM Discovery Week, organised by the newly established STEM Alliance from 22 to 29 April 2016, is an excellent case of cooperation between industrial partners and the education sector.
For a week, and beyond, STEM subjects and careers are highlighted. The first ever STEM Alliance online chat, titled the Chemistry and Supply welcomed 341 pupils from 13 schools in 11 countries to discuss chemistry and related careers with designated experts. An now there is an ongoing online discussion about the evaluation of STEM teaching, with experts from TED University in Turkey: http://www.stemalliance.eu/cop-1
The STEM Discovery Week has also invited STEM teachers and other professionals to take part in its STEM4YOU competition. It has collected information about all STEM events happening in Europe and featured them on an interactive map, so everyone can find something happening in their area. STEM Alliance also invites people to submit short videos for a competition showing how STEM affects lives every day, where the winners are invited to a prize ceremony: http://www.stemalliance.eu/stem4you-2016
And today, Carlos Cunha will lead a webinar co-organised by Scientix and the STEM Alliance on SAFuturo – The inquiry based-learning nest. During the webinar, Mr. Cunha will explain how teachers can create their very own Future Classroom Lab, taking inspiration from the one set up by European Schoolnet: http://www.stemalliance.eu/webinar-1
Initiatives like the STEM Discovery Week bridge the gap between industry, careers and education. It helps us to popularise science, so that people see all the possibilities that STEM education can bring them. May there be more such weeks for the years to come!
Róbert Hlynur Baldursson