Science education and careers
In a knowledge society, democracy requires citizens
to have a certain scientific and technical knowledge
as part of their basic skills(1).
Acquiring this and keeping it up to date has become
as essential as mastering the 3Rs. Apart from this
general knowledge, Europe needs a pool of scientists
to ensure socio-economic development. We are not yet
in this situation. It is therefore necessary, firstly,
to get young boys and girls more interested in science
by giving each pupil the basic knowledge they need
to act as responsible citizens in the face of scientific
choices and, secondly, to encourage them to embark
on a scientific career. Adults who take up and continue
learning later in life should also be encouraged to
pursue a scientific career.
It is also necessary to ensure that people who have
embarked on a scientific career can retain their enthusiasm
and motivation and have opportunities for personal
development, without having to abandon scientific
disciplines for other types of career. Public authorities
are not solely responsible in this respect. Tangible
results will only come if private actors fully assume
their essential role and provide sufficiently attractive
prospects and rewards.
Science and European objectives for education
There is a natural complementarity between the creation
of the European Research Area and the European Higher
Education Area. To enhance synergies, the Commission
will endeavour to ensure that activities undertaken
in the respective frameworks are both coherent and
In keeping with the mandate from the Lisbon Summit,
the Commission, in concert with the Member States,
began to define the future objectives of European
education systems ("The
concrete future objectives of education systems"
COM(2001)59 final, 31.01.2001) for the coming years.
On this basis, a "Report on the concrete future objectives
of education and training systems" (Council
report on the concrete future objectives of education
and training systems, 5980/01 EDUC) was adopted
on 12 February 2001 by the Education Council and endorsed
by the Stockholm European Council. The Commission
and Council will present a joint report together with
a detailed work programme to the Barcelona European
Council in 2002.
Priority objective "Mathematics, Sciences
The Working Group on the priority objective
"Mathematics, Sciences and Technologies" has
begun its work designed to increase recruitment
to scientific and technological disciplines.
The four key questions addressed are as follows:
increasing interest in mathematics, science
and technology from an early age; motivating
more young people to choose studies and careers
in the fields of mathematics, science and
technology, in particular research careers
and scientific disciplines where there are
shortages of qualified personnel, in a short
and medium term perspective; improving gender
balance among people learning mathematics,
science and technology; and securing a sufficient
number of qualified teachers in mathematics
and scientific and technical subjects.
Applying the open coordination method recommended
by the Lisbon European Council, working groups are
already active on the three priority objectives aimed
at: the development of skills for the knowledge society;
access to information and communication technologies
for all; and increased recruitment to scientific and
technical disciplines (priority objective "mathematics,
sciences and technologies").
Reflections will begin in 2002 on two other objectives
closely linked to science and society: promoting active
citizenship, equal opportunities and the gender dimension
and social cohesion; and strengthening the links between
working life, research and society as a whole.
Science and Society in the European Higher Education
Higher education establishments, and particularly
universities - the natural homes for science, education
and transmission of knowledge - have for several years
been confronted with profound changes. These changes
have involved their opening up to and interaction
with society, from the local to the international
level. Several recent initiatives at European level
have encouraged this phenomenon, which combines a
growing transnational dimension (networks, mobility,
partnerships) and an intensification of the dialogue
between universities and their locally-based societies.
The Commission will explore with its partners
in academia and the University Council for the Jean
Monnet Project (2) the possibility
of including the theme "Science, society and European
integration" among the subjects covered by the Jean
Monnet chairs, alongside more classical disciplines
such as law, economics, political science or history.
The Bologna process, launched on 19 June 1999 by
the Education Ministers of 29 European countries,
sets action priorities with a view to creating a European
Higher Education Area. Firstly, the process facilitates
the comparability, transparency and comprehensibility
of university qualifications and pathways. Secondly,
it encourages universities to devote more attention
to the new challenges posed by the knowledge society:
life-long learning, strengthening of the European
and international dimension, quality of teaching and
services, and the taking into account of specific
local features in the design of study programmes.
In the training of scientists, particular attention
must be given to areas that may prove essential in
the exercise of their professions. These include project
management (particularly on a European scale), law
(intellectual property, ethics, etc) and communication
(to the general public in particular).
The development of European study courses at university
level on science, technology and their historical,
cultural and economic environments will be promoted
through the creation of collaboration networks.
The Community programme SOCRATES
- and in particular the Erasmus activity - contributes
to the Bologna process through facilitating collaboration
between higher educational establishments across Europe,
as well as student and teacher exchanges. Erasmus
Thematic Networks, in particular, are pan-European
partnerships which develop projects and provide for
forums where higher education institutions and other
relevant bodies (associations (European), professional
organisations, NGOs, IGOs, etc) reflect prospectively
on issues concerning the study areas they address.
(Science Teacher Education Development in Europe)
Erasmus Thematic Network seeks to take stock of the
most relevant and recent findings in science research
and educational theories in order to translate them
into effective teaching and learning. STEDE will also
address aspects related to the assessment of teaching
and acquisition of scientific literacy. In addition,
it will address the specific needs of science teachers,
taking account of the specificities of the disciplines
and of the cultural differences in the European Union
and in the countries associated to the Socrates Programme.
Development and dissemination of new teaching
Teaching methods in general and of scientific subjects
in particular have a major impact on the attitude
of young people to sciences. The development and testing
of education methods designed to stimulate youngsters'
interest in science should be promoted at European
level, such as the establishment of innovative interdisciplinary
projects more attractive to children in primary and
The Commission, in cooperation with the Member
States, will support education research and development
projects specific to science and technology. The dissemination
of results will be promoted by exchanges of experience
among teachers, conferences and public debates on
the teaching of science and technology. Useful information
will be made available on Internet sites.
What is Physics on Stage?
on Stage was one of a number of initiatives
that were launched under the European Science
and Technology Week, 2000. During the course
of that year a wide variety of national activities
took place to identify outstanding projects
and individuals in the field of physics teaching.
National Steering Committees were set up in
22 European countries to select the best projects,
which were then brought together during a
five-day festival held at CERN in Geneva during
the Science Week, 6-10 November. In addition
to a physics fair, demonstrations and presentations,
a number of working groups considered key
issues facing physics teaching across Europe
today. The project was initiated by the European
Organisation for Nuclear Research (CERN),
the European Space Agency (ESA)
and the European Southern Observatory (ESO).
Taking advantage of SOCRATES-related actions and
Other initiatives such as the SOCRATES programme
(in particular the Minerva action) and media events
such as Netd@ys
(in 2000, there were about 300 Netd@ys projects, 150
000 organisations participated from85 countries and
the Netd@ys European website received over 8m hits)
(Internet Week) or eSchola (week focusing on innovative
uses of the Internet in schools) can also aid dissemination.
Such events will concentrate on developing projects
of a high educational quality backed by adequate teaching
One of their key objectives is to understand the
possibilities of using the new media (Internet, videoconferences,
new audio-visual facilities, etc) as learning and
With a view to developing sound educational resources
for science, and to get pupils acting as "young researchers",
cross-disciplinary partnerships should be encouraged.
These would include education as well as youth and
cultural organisations and other organisations in
the science arena.
In 2002, science education at school will be given
particular attention with a view to launching cooperation
projects that would bring together research and education
actors. Specific efforts should be made to make education
or research projects better known through operations
such as eSchola,
(Women Education and Employment in Science and Technology),
Netd@ys or the Comenius
Mobility of researchers and students
The gradual emergence of a mobility culture for European
researchers, thanks to the implementation of a "chain
of opportunities" ranging from student grants to lifelong
financial incentives for researchers, can contribute
indirectly to the public perception of science (see
in particular the activities proposed by the Communication
mobility strategy for the European Research Area,
COM(2001)331 final, 20.06.2001) and help raise the
profile of scientific careers in the eyes of the general
public. This will be further supported by the promotion
of a European Area of Lifelong Learning with its specific
action proposals to encourage mobility for citizens
to pursue and make use of learning across Europe.
A European network of mobility centres will be set
up. Its task will be to provide on-the-spot assistance
to researchers and their families, as well as detailed
information on programmes, funding and vacancies at
The European mobility centres will seek to integrate,
as far as possible, information and awareness-raising
activities aimed at the general public and at young
people in particular.
Information on studies and scientific careers
There is a lack of comparable information on the
scientific and technical content of study courses
and on the science and technology careers proposed
in the countries of the Union. This is detrimental
to decision-taking at the Community and national levels
in terms of achieving greater integration of education
systems, research and innovation in Europe.
The Commission will examine together with Member
States the best way of launching a comparative European
assessment of science and technology studies and careers,
and of networking the national institutions that collect
the necessary data.
Dissemination of this information should help young
people in their choice of studies and careers and
may serve as guidance to education policymakers and
teaching establishments in adapting their programmes.
To support young and adult learners in their learning
and career choices, the Commission's Communication
a European Area of Lifelong Learning a Reality"
proposes several concrete initiatives. In terms of
information, this includes the setting up of a European
Internet portal on learning opportunities throughout
Skills" is a package of skills and competencies individuals
need to flourish in today's society, and which should
have been developed by the end of obligatory schooling
or training, but can be augmented through lifelong learning.
The provision of basic skills for all citizens is identified
as a priority area in the Report on the concrete future
objectives of education and training systems as well
as in the Commission Communication on "Making a European
Area of Lifelong Learning a Reality" (COM(2001)678 final).
(2) The University Council is
the academic body which assists the Commission with
the academic and scientific follow-up of the Jean
Monnet projects. The University Council was created
by the Commission decision which instituted the Jean
Monnet Project. Its current president is Mr José