The education system is constantly evolving and offering new learning opportunities. Students are now encouraged to combine various academic subjects in their learning process. But are they fully prepared for the changes they will face later on? Do they have the tools and knowledge to engage in professional life? Are they also prepared for the digital and economic changes our society is facing?
Since the outbreak, the COVID-19 pandemic has had a significant impact on many sectors: culture, economy, health, etc. Nothing has been spared, but the education system has experienced an unprecedented upheaval: parents, teachers, and students have had to rethink their habits and create new ones to adjust to remote learning. In fact, the COVID-19 crisis has led more than 183 million students in 43 European countries to study from home. In addition to its impact on the education system, its effects have also been felt in the working world. According to a study conducted by the International Labour Organisation, youth employment fell by 8.7% in 2020, while adult employment declined by 3.7%.
On the one hand, the global health crisis continues to widen the gap in terms of learning opportunities, while on the other hand, it amplifies precariousness among the younger generation.
Is STEM Education the solution?
STEM is an acronym for Science, Technology, Engineering and Mathematics. It is a current standard of education offered by schools, combining scientific and technical subjects. Beyond academic learning, STEM also aims to train future students for the challenges our society is facing.
The core of this education is to create the future generation of problem-solvers. As citizens living in a complex society, we are required to make decisions that affect our daily lives – whether political, environmental, or health-related – thus, understanding the underlying causes of the problem, such as scientific concepts, allows us to take effective and accurate decisions. For many educators, STEM is the way to foster innovation, critical thinking, and curiosity.
Each branch of STEM education emphasises the development of specific skills. For example, learning science helps students better understand the environment in which they live and allows them to develop critical thinking skills. Learning new technological skills enables students to operate in a fast-paced world, and they are led to develop a deep understanding of technological literacy. Engineering, as well as mathematics, allow students to become more solution-oriented and to analyse situations in order to eliminate errors and solve problems more efficiently.
Overall, STEM education evolves in a connected and coherent system and aims to equip students with solid knowledge to face future changes. By encouraging them to engage in STEM learning, their curiosity is nurtured, and they become more innovative and creative.
New opportunities on the horizon
The digital divide that the world is experiencing in terms of the gap between new information and communication technologies (ICT) and their accessibility in regions leads schools and all stakeholders in the educational ecosystem to strengthen and emphasise STEM education. Thus, one of the priority goals of the European Commission, under Horizon 2020, is to increase the attractiveness of science education and science careers among young people. To reach this ambition, the European institution has joined forces with several actors by funding and helping to carry out innovative projects.
In line with its vision and mission, European Schoolnet, since its foundation, has emphasised the importance of new technologies as a driver for education. With 32 projects in the STEM fields, 8 of which are ongoing, the organisation aims to educate both students and teachers on the benefits of innovative education. STEM jobs do not seem to attract many young people, yet career prospects and development are booming; this might be due to a lack of understanding of the opportunities that this field can offer. In order to help teachers to vulgarise the concept of STEM education, the guidance on how to present STEM jobs in the classroom has recently been published. It is also possible to discover a repository of STEM jobs profiles on the STE(A)M IT project website, which is a valuable resource for anyone interested in a career perspective in STEM.
European Schoolnet Academy by European Schoolnet offers teachers and anyone interested in personal development, online courses, and training sessions to improve their skills. Among others, the platform provides a course for primary and secondary school teachers on using and applying STEM integrated teaching in their classroom.
STEM education engages young people in experimenting with the world and its elements. Unlike traditional education that relies on recitation and memorisation, STEM education encourages children to ask questions, make assumptions and develop skills that can be used throughout life. Empowering them with a sound knowledge of their surroundings will help to build their confidence and encourage them to move into the active world.