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Promotion of STEM education by key scientific challenges and their impact on our life and career perspectives

It’s commonly observed that science education and scientific careers aren’t attractive enough for young people in most EU countries. An EU initiative has developed several educational materials to get high schoolers more engaged in sciences, technology, engineering and mathematics (STEM).

In Asia STEM students account for up to 20 % of the student population. In Europe only 2 % of students study subjects involving science or technology. The main reason for this STEM skills gap is the way science disciplines are traditionally taught at European schools. “Core STEM subjects are presented mostly through a theoretical approach and often as separate unrelated areas” says coordinator Dr Przemek Duda of the EU-funded STEM4youth project. “STEM education usually has no broader societal context on how these skills are applied in real life and future careers.”

Getting students to think about science and technology

To address the gap, STEM4youth produced a comprehensive, multidisciplinary series of courses for students aged 12-19. The courses present more than 60 key STEM challenges and hot topics from 6 main STEM disciplines: mathematics, physics, astronomy, chemistry, engineering and medicine. A transversal module involving citizen science is also included. Through online games, educational toolkits, storytelling and experiments, the courses explain how core principles of each discipline shape our daily lives.

Project partners presented these challenges largely through their practical applications and impact on everyday life and work. They demonstrated which skills are developed in each discipline and how they fit labour market needs. “These educational materials will help young people to make conscious decisions about their interests, field of education and finally their career paths,” notes Dr Duda.

One-stop online shop for educational materials

The STEM4youth team created an educational platform for content sharing and for student and teacher support. Teachers and students can download and upload all course materials games and self-testing tools and interact with one another through the forum. Teachers can use the resources and other freely accessible content as sources for extracurricular lessons. Students are able to expand their knowledge get a more holistic view of STEM and obtain more information about which career opportunities are available thanks to a STEM education. An international student and teacher community built during the project complements the online repository.

Extensive feedback from teachers and students fed into a set of recommendations for policymakers and public authorities. They outline how to improve and adopt the best STEM educational methods in school systems locally, nationally and across Europe.

Lastly, STEM4youth organised a competition for secondary and high school students. Participants set up 14 teams from across Europe and EU candidate countries to work on 1 of 4 interdisciplinary problems. Winners went on a scientific trip to the European Organization for Nuclear Research (CERN) in mid-2018.

“Thanks to STEM4youth, teachers and students have got a consolidated source of information that will influence the way STEM is taught and learned,” concludes Dr Duda. “We hope all these tools will encourage more young people to study STEM and pursue STEM-related careers in the science domain and industry.”

Reference source: Promotion of STEM education by key scientific challenges and their impact on our life and career perspectives

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