Science With And For Society (Swafs)

Science Education

Science Education forms the basis for the full achievement of the Innovation Union and the European Research Area. Europe needs a skilled population, competent in science, technology, engineering and mathematics – the so-called STEM subjects – not only for comprising the driving force for economic prosperity, competitiveness and growth, but – first and foremost – for having a science and technology-literate Europea society.

Europe needs its best minds to meet global interconnected societal challenges. This is why science education plays a key role. We need creative and innovative formal and informal science education teaching and learning. It is about helping young people make the best use of their capacities and capabilities and become a force of innovation. Investing in making scientific and research careers more attractive for young people improves their culture, prepares them to act as well-informed citizens and equips them with the necessary knowledge and skills to match the current and future labor market needs. Building capacities and developing innovative ways of connecting science to society is a priority under Horizon 2020. This will help to make science more attractive to young people, increase society's appetite for innovation, and open up further research and innovation activities.

Making science education and careers attractive for young people is an ambitious goal, since it targets to drastically improve science and technology-literacy in our society. Innovative formal and informal science education teaching and learning is important in order to raise both young boys' and girls' awareness of the different aspects encompassing science and technology in today’s society and to address the challenges faced by young people when pursuing careers in Science, Technology, Engineering and Mathematics (STEM).

The world is changing rapidly. The responsibility to address the societal challenges needs to be shared through the involvement, and sustainable cross-cutting interaction of all relevant actors in the field:

  • different levels of the education system,
  • universities and other higher education establishments,
  • research and innovation funding and performing organizations,
  • civil society organizations and NGO's,
  • industry, policy-makers,
  • professors,
  • teachers,
  • students and pupils,
  • Science museums and science centres.

However, the key for co-creation within the research and innovation process is one of enabling sustained dialogue. But before this can happen, the language and tools of science needs to be available to everyone. Science education is essential to make this happen. Children and young people enter the education systems with natural curiosity and creativity. Recognising and nurturing this will require changes in both the values and governance of science education.

Within the Horizon 2020 Work Programme, a first Call for proposals was launched with the aim of making science education and careers attractive for young people.

Expected impact of 2014-2015 Work Programme:

  • Develop scientific citizenship by promoting innovative pedagogies in science education, attracting more young people towards science, with a special emphasis on girls, and addressing the challenges faced by young people, in pursuing careers in science, technology, engineering and innovation,
  • Develop responsible research and innovation in higher education curricula,
  • Ease the access to scientific careers by increasing the service level of the EURAXESS Services Network.

2014 Science Education Expert Group

In the "Science in Society" (SiS) 2013 Work Programme, as amended on the 2nd of September 2013, the European Commission announced the establishment of an "Expert Group to support the preparation of new Science Education policy initiatives and policy options within the context of Horizon 2020, Responsible Research and Innovation (RRI) and the European Research Area (ERA)" (Topic: SiS.2013.2.2.3-2).

The objective of the Science Education Expert Group (SEEG) is to support and advise the European Commission on new Science Education policy initiatives and policy options within the context of Horizon 2020, Responsible Research and Innovation (RRI) and the European Research Area (ERA). The inputs and suggestions for specific actions will be included in a report that will help future police-making and advancements.

Background Information

» Human Potential and Horizons

Despite society's reliance on science and technology (S&T) to generate solutions to ever-present challenges, the number of young people choosing to study science and take up scientific careers is decreasing. There are several initiatives in place under the "Science in Society" (SiS) Programme to help stop and even reverse this trend, to inspire greater participation by young people in science, and to encourage long-term scientific careers.

Science also requires the talent, perspectives and insights that come from a diverse and rich research workforce. The SiS Programme also supports initiatives that combat gender prejudices and stereotypes, and promote gender equality in research.

» Science Education and Careers

Although their love of gadgets and technological wizardry is renowned, many young people see science as being uninteresting, distant and 'uncool'. Over time, this has translated in a drop in the numbers of young people pursuing science and technology (S&T) studies and careers. Since society's prosperity and well-being depends largely on continuous scientific and technological progress, then this trend may have significant consequences for Europe. The lack of interest of girls in S&T studies and careers is particularly alarming in some countries, and initiatives are required to reverse this trend.

Making science more appealing to young people requires a serious rethinking of the way science is conveyed. Young people attribute their lack of interest in S&T to the way science is taught in schools, the complexity of the subjects, and an apparent shortage of attractive career prospects. Addressing this requires revamping the methodology for science teaching and the related tools, such as making school science syllabuses more relevant to young people's experiences, highlighting the bright prospects S&T offers intellectually and financially, and conveying the important role S&T plays in solving the major challenges that concern young people. In short, it requires hard-wiring science into youth culture and awareness. The "Science in Society" (SiS) Programme supports research and other activities in order to improve the current state of science education in European schools and stimulate long and fruitful S&T careers. Information on projects it has funded under the Sixth and Seventh Framework Programmes (FP6 and FP7) is available through the e-Library.

Funded Projects

Under the Seventh Framework Programme (FP7), 38 Collaborative Projects (CP) and Coordination and Support Actions (CSA) plus 1 service contract were funded with an EU contribution of nearly 92 million euros:

» FP7-SCIENCE-IN-SOCIETY-2007-1

  • Area 5.2.2.1: Supporting formal and informal science education in schools as well as through science centres and museums and other relevant means.
  • Area 5.2.2.2: Reinforcing links between science education and science careers
  • Area 5.3.0.3: Encouraging a European dimension at science events targeting the public
  • Area 5.3.0.6: Research aimed at enhancing science communication in its methods and its products

8 Projects Funded

  • HULDA: The European Arts and Sciences Sailing Festival, CSA / CSA-CA
  • Mind the Gap: Learning, Teaching, Research and Policy in Inquiry-Based Science Education
  • YOSCIWEB: Young people and the images of science on websites
  • CarboSchools+: European network of regional projects for school partnerships on climate change research
  • SCICOM: European Network of Science Centres in communicating energy-related topics
  • CoReflect: Digital support for Inquiry, Collaboration, and Reflection on Socio-Scientific Debates
  • HIPST: History and Philosophy in Science Teaching
  • EUCUNET: European Children´s Universities Network

» FP7-SCIENCE-IN-SOCIETY-2008-1

Area 5.2.2.3: Research and coordination actions on new methods in science education (CSA (Coordinating) and CSA (Supporting))

3 Projects Funded

  • ACCENT: Action on Climate Change through Engagement, Networks and Tools
  • MY SCIENCE: MY SCIENCE European Program for Young Journalists
  • ESConeT: ESConet Trainers

» FP7-SCIENCE-IN-SOCIETY-2008-3

SIS-2008-2.2.1.1: Innovative methods in science education (CSA-SA)

1 Project Funded

  • S-TEAM: Science Teacher Education Advanced Methods

» SERVICE CONTRACT – Tender Specifications: RTD-L4-PP-2008-1

  • Scientix: The Community for Science Education in Europe

» FP7-SCIENCE-IN-SOCIETY-2009-1

Area 5.2.2.3 Research and coordination actions on new methods in science education (CSA (Supporting) and SICA Collaborative Projects (small or medium-scale focused projects) CP-FP-SICA)

6 Projects Funded

  • KidsINNscience: Innovation in Science Education – Turning Kids on to Science (CP)
  • Primas: Promoting inquiry in mathematics and science education across Europe (CSA)
  • FIBONACCI: The FIBONACCI Project - Large scale dissemination of inquiry based science and mathematics education (CSA)
  • SED: Science Education for Diversity (CP)
  • ESTABLISH: European Science and Technology in Action Building Links with Industry, Schools and Home (CSA)
  • TRACES: Transformative Research Activities. Cultural diversities and Education in Science (CP)

» FP7-SCIENCE-IN-SOCIETY-2010-1

Area 5.2.2.2 Reinforcing links between science education and science careers (CSA (Supporting))

6 Projects Funded

  • PROFILES: Professional Reflection-Oriented Focus on Inquiry-based Learning and Education though Science (CSA)
  • INQUIRE: INQUIRE- inquiry-based teacher training for a sustainable future (CSA)
  • Pathway: The Pathway to Inquiry Based Science Teaching (CSA)
  • SiS CATALYST: SiS Catalyst: Children as Change Agents for the future of Science in Society (CSA)
  • SECURE: Science Education CUrriculum Research (CP)
  • Pri-Sci-Net: Networking Primary Science Educators as a means to provide training and professional development in Inquiry Based Teaching (CSA)

» FP7-SCIENCE-IN-SOCIETY-2010-CAREERS

SiS-2010-2.2.2-1 Reinforcing links between science education and S&T careers in the private sector through reinforcing the partnership industry/education

1 Project Funded

  • ECB: European Coordinating Body in Maths, Science and Technology Education (ECB) (CSA)

» FP7-SCIENCE-IN-SOCIETY-2011-1

Area 5.2.2.3: Research and coordination actions on new methods in science education

3 Projects Funded

  • ENGINEER: brEaking New Ground IN the sciencE Education Realm (CSA)
  • CreativeLittleScient: Creative Little Scientists: Enabling Creativity through Science and Mathematics in Preschool and First Years of Primary Education (CP)
  • SAILS: Strategies for Assessment of Inquiry Learning in Science (CSA)

» FP7-SCIENCE-IN-SOCIETY-2012-1

Area 5.2.2.1: Supporting formal and informal science education in schools as well as through science centres and museums and other relevant means.

4 Projects Funded

  • MaScil: Mathematics and science for life (CSA)
  • ChReact: Chain Reaction: A Sustainable Approach to Inquiry Based Science Education (CSA)
  • TEMI: Teaching Enquiry with Mysteries Incorporated (CSA)
  • ASSIST-ME: Assess Inquiry in Science, Technology and Mathematics Education (CP)

» FP7-Adhoc-2007-13

SiS: Science in Society

1 Project Funded

  • Scientix 2 (CSA)

» FP7-SCIENCE-IN-SOCIETY-2013-1

Area 5.2.2.1: Supporting formal and informal science education in schools as well as through science centres and museums and other relevant means.

5 Projects Funded

  • PARRISE: Promoting Attainment of Responsible Research and Innovation in Science Education (CSA)
  • FaSMEd: Improving progress for lower achievers through Formative Assessment in Science and Mathematics Education (CP)
  • ENGAGE: Equipping the Next Generation for Active Engagement in Science (CSA)
  • Irresistible: Including Responsible Research and innovation in cutting Edge Science and Inquiry-based Science education to improve Teacher's Ability of Bridging Learning Environments (CSA)
  • Ark of Inquiry: Inquiry Awards for Youth over Europe (CSA)

Science education in schools

The "Science in Society" (SiS) Programme supports a range of initiatives that pursue greater participation by young people in science, and encourage long-term scientific careers. These projects include formal settings of science education (e.g. schools) and non-formal, out-of-school teaching settings (e.g. science parks, science museums and science events).

The European Commission also recognises that science events, inspiring and mobilising young people, are more important than ever. The annual European Union Contest for Young Scientists (EUCYS), part of the SiS Programme, is one of Europe's premier events for showcasing young scientific talent. It brings together winners of national competitions (young people between 14 and 21 years of age) to compete with their European counterparts.

But science education is not just for young people. The SiS Programme supports initiatives that aim to bring S&T closer to everyone with some curiosity about innovation and progress.

Milestone studies and reports

In 2006, Michel Rocard (former French Prime Minister, and Member of the European Parliament) was invited to chair a group of experts to see what action could be taken in terms of Europe's need for more scientists, and the need to ensure that all young people develop key analytical skills at school that would prepare them for the future.

The experts' findings were subsequently released in June 2007 under the report, Science Education Now: A Renewed Pedagogy for the Future of Europe . Among their recommendations, they recognise that a change in school science teaching from mainly deductive to inquiry-based science education (IBSE) is necessary. IBSE affords more time to observation and experimentation, and pupils (under their teacher's guidance) are encouraged to construct their own knowledge.

The report was widely disseminated and stimulated considerable debate, and has since become a key policy document in the revival of science teaching in Europe. Prior to the Rocard Report, in 2004 another landmark study identified the issues with regard to Europe's S&T workforce. Titled Increasing Human Resources for Science and Technology in Europe , the report presents a clear understanding of the state of play in this area, and provides tangible action for future R&D policy in Europe.

Towards best practice

Under the Seventh Framework Programme (FP7), the SiS Programme supported two studies on best practice, which were launched through a tender process and undertaken on behalf of the European Commission. The main objective of the study undertaken by Technopolis (Belgium) was to identify and disseminate best practice in science mentoring and science ambassador initiatives across 33 countries in Europe. The team analysed the various forms of science mentoring implemented across Europe through case studies of schemes selected for their exemplary value, drew lessons, and proposed guidelines for possible future developments.

The main objective of the study undertaken by Scienter (Italy) was to identify and disseminate best practices within Europe in the context of science teaching that places S&T into meaningful learning contexts. The team focused their work on both formal and informal teaching settings, and collated information on effective techniques and experiences for demonstrating the relevance of science and innovation in daily life.

Scientix – Towards Building a Science Education Community in Europe

Knowledge generated in the field of science education can take on the form of practical experience, know-how and techniques rather than research results. This body of information, however, often resides with those directly concerned by the specific projects (such as those funded under the European Commission's Framework Programmes, as well as other programmes and initiatives) and often does not get the kind of broad exposure that would prove fruitful to other stakeholders, in particular once the related financial support ends. The "Science in Society" (SiS) 2008 Work Programme published a tender asking for interested parties to develop a user-friendly, Internet-based information platform on science education. The outcome was Scientix

Since 2009, Scientix collects and disseminates teaching materials and research reports from European science education projects financed by the European Union under the 6th and 7th Framework Programmes for DG RTD, as well as other EC DGs and various national initiatives. The portal mainly targets teachers and schools, but also other EU stakeholders, such as science educators, curriculum developers, policy-makers and researchers. It is a free-to-access and free-to-use portal, so that anyone interested in science education in Europe can join the Scientix community.

In 2013, DG RTD launched the follow-up project Scientix 2 – the so-called Community for Science Education in Europe – under the FP7 ‘Science in Society’ Work Programme. Through the second phase of Scientix, the EC, aims to: ensure the continuation and adaptation of the initial Scientix activities; enhance communication and community-building in the field of science education; support the development of national strategies for wide uptake and dissemination of inquiry-based science and mathematics education (IBSME), as well as other innovative science education methods. Scientix has evolved from being simply a web-based platform. It has expanded significantly to the national level via the established network of National Contact Points (NCPs) as well as the activities of the Scientix Ambassador – members of the Scientix Teachers’ Panel – in more than 30 European countries. Moreover, the Scientix Observatory was also created and several networking events are organized with the aim of enhancing multiple forms of collaboration between different science education projects.

Science Education and Careers

In 2004, a High Level Group (HLG) of experts, chaired by José Mariano Gago, released a report, Increasing Human Resources for Science and Technology in Europe . Their specific objectives were to determine the reasons why Europe is not generating as much research manpower to meet its needs.

Target: 8 researchers for every 1 000

The HLG was established by former Research Commissioner Philippe Busquin as a response to a broad strategy implemented by the European Commission to address the Lisbon and Barcelona goals. The group concluded that roughly 8 researchers for every 1 000 are needed in the workforce to achieve the Lisbon and Barcelona target of attaining 3 % of GDP (gross domestic product). This target equates to 1.2 million additional research personnel or about half a million extra researchers in science, engineering and technology (SET).

In 2001, there were 5.7 researchers (in full-time equivalent positions) per 1 000 of the workforce for the EU-15. The HLG found large differences between European countries; Finland topped the list at 13.77, while some of the most populated countries generated much lower figures, including Germany and France at 6.55 and the UK at 5.49.

According to the HLG, the target could not be achieved without deliberate and sustained action. In their report, they provide tangible action for future research and development policy in Europe. Among the 27 major recommendations made, the HLG called for the need to:

  • measure and monitor human resources for science and technology (S&T) in Europe;
  • develop better conditions for the development of research in and by the private sector;
  • create better policies to attract talented young scientists;
  • promote scientific culture in society and to help citizens acquire a better understanding of the role of science and technology in society.

From science education to S&T careers

Surveys show that, in general, young people do not have a clear idea of what scientists do, and are unaware of the range of career options open to those with qualifications in science, technology and mathematics. These and other perceptions of (S&T) careers have an obvious impact on interest, motivation and subject choices.

Industry, research organisations and other bodies are increasingly playing an active role in bridging the gap between science education and science careers by promoting better awareness of the diversity of choice and opportunities.

The FP7 "Science in Society" (SiS) Programme supports projects that reinforce the links between science education and S&T careers. Under the 2010 Work Programme, for example, a Call for Proposals invited applications that explored these links by engaging the participation of industry. A proposal, for instance, could set out to address a specific sector (e.g. chemical industry), be more generic in its approach (e.g. careers in research organisations) or combine elements of both. The ultimate aim of this Call for Proposals was to convey useful information and direct experience to young people at a time when choices are made with regard to study subjects.