December 21, 2018
Teachers of Science, Technology, Engineering and Mathematics (STEM) need more support, training and tools for implementing innovative pedagogies in schools, such as student-centred learning. It is of particular concern that more than 35% of STEM teachers think they get no pedagogical or technical support in their line of work, even from other teachers of the same discipline, according to the findings of a new European study by Scientix, the community for science education in Europe (funded from the European Union’s Horizon 2020 research and innovation programme), carried out in collaboration with Texas Instruments.
Responses from 3,780 teachers in 38 countries were analysed as part of a Scientix Observatory study that sheds new light on current practices in STEM education. It is important to share these findings with our policymakers when shaping strategies in the area of education beyond 2020, with the aim of increasing the number of young people who want to study STEM subjects at school and pursue STEM careers later in life. For this to happen, it is crucial for Europe to have properly trained and well-equipped STEM teachers.
However, the results of this new survey by Scientix show us that many teachers still feel they lack the necessary support and training. Most often, teachers say their work is affected by structural issues, such as pressure to prepare students for exams, insufficient technical support, organisation of their schools’ spaces and a lack of available pedagogical models. Despite all efforts and initiatives at both national and European levels to encourage approaches of Inquiry-Based Science Education (IBSE), traditional instruction and materials are still dominant in STEM education, more so in some disciplines than others, and 65% of the teachers who took part in the survey said they had not spent any time on their professional development in the last two years.
These findings are a very important contribution to the ongoing discussions about the future of STEM education in Europe and best practices in the field. It is important to devote more care to European networks of exchange, so that STEM teachers can improve their practices, learn from others and seek support. The development of whole-school STEM-oriented strategies must be supported and trans-disciplinary collaboration strengthened to encourage the uptake of integrative STEM teaching and cooperation among teachers. A global approach from primary education to continuous professional development, in which teachers are offered more opportunities for their professional development and support for innovative pedagogies, is also needed.
Research of this kind is, of course, important for future policy-making processes in the field of STEM education to make sure that Europe is prepared for and can meet increasing market demands for highly skilled STEM professionals. The progress of policies and practices in STEM education should be observed and monitored regularly to ensure that they fulfil the expectations made of them. Now, thanks to Scientix, which has published one report on STEM policies and one on STEM practices, it is possible to take a close look at the current situation in STEM education and move STEM strategies in Europe forward.
Executive Director of European Schoolneteuropeanschoolnet