Competing in the global, knowledge-based economy and adjusting to the digital age are long-term challenges Europe must continue to address. Investing in human capital is vital in meeting these challenges. High quality science education / STEM education contributes to sustained economic growth, as well as sustainable development by fuelling R&D, innovation, productivity and competitiveness.
According to the recent Scientix (the European platform to promote teaching science by inquiry) Report “Efforts to Increase Students’ Interest in Pursuing STEM Studies and Careers – National Measures Taken by 30 Countries” (Kearney, 2016) the majority of EU countries
- consider the introduction of inquiry-based science education (IBSE) a current priority and have or are developing strategies to improve teaching and learning and the uptake of studies and careers in STEM area
- are paying more attention to improving the provision of professional development for in-service science and mathematics teachers than investing in science and mathematics specific initial teacher training.
These reforms (mainly based on the recommendations of the Rocard Report (EC 2007) though seem to have little impact on the students’ performance, and many countries continue to hope for a simple solution that will miraculously turn the tide. However, recent evidence (including PISA 2015 results) illustrates that in both mathematics and science, underachievement of 15-year-olds remains above the ET 2020 benchmark of 15%, and most countries across Europe continue to face a low number of students interested in studying or pursuing a career in the STEM field.
Albeit very effective, teaching science by inquiry constitute a major paradigm shift for teachers and is confronted with two major challenges: teachers need to acquire new skills, abandon long standing practices and move away from their professional “comfort zone”, therefore exposing themselves to perceived, or real, risks. In addition, for teachers to introduce inquiry-based methods into their everyday routine, they should perform a change in behaviour and to adapt a new culture and philosophy.
Teachers’ continuous professional development (CPD) is a crucial aspect in the improvement of their competences and competencies (knowledge, skills and attitudes). ESIA is offering courses to help teachers learn about IBSE and showcases tools and learning scenarios to help teachers improve the quality of their teaching.