In recent years European educational systems seems to struggle to provide youth with the skills needed to strive on the labor market. Eurostat data on Youth Unemployment confirm it. In 2015 five EU countries – Greece, Spain, Italy, Croatia and Portugal had more than 20 percent of unemployed youth aged 20 to 29. Whole EU had an average youth unemployment rate of around 15 percent. At the same time there is a lack of workers in ICT and STEM fields will reach 825,000 skilled workers by 2020. Based on this data we have a paradox – while there is a lack of skilled workers in the EU there is also a surplus of educated youth searching for work opportunities.
One of the solutions to the problem of under skilled educated youth could be reshaping the education process. Focusing on STEM, entrepreneurship and promoting lifelong learning in the education system could be the key to solving the problem.
By definition STEM is an educational program developed to prepare primary and secondary students for college and graduate study in the field of science, technology, engineering and mathematics (STEM). In biology, STEM is a central part of something from which other parts can develop or grow. The way STEM and learning should be seen in life. Students that pass through an educational system strongly focused on STEM have a problem solving inquiring mind and great collaboration skills. They can use the skill set in different situations they find themselves in.
Focus on Croatia
Today we are focusing on Croatia that has some interesting public and private initiatives in the STEM field. Croatian school infrastructure, at least the most of it, dates back to the 60’s and 70’s and is not one of the priorities of either local or state authorities. The lack of political interest in education is seen in public spending on education as a part of GDP that is getting lower each year. Therefore, the only exit from this “lack” of initiatives in the educational system is in private initiatives or EU funded intiatives.
Croatian Makers League (CM League)
The competition focuses on elementary school students with the aim to enable a wide-ranging inclusion of robotics, automation and programming into elementary education.
Furthermore, CM League brings up interest for STEM fields by “playing” with an educational robot. In this case “playing” means basic programming of the robot. The goal is for the robot to complete simple tasks in each round of the league. Currently, CM league includes more than 360 schools and 8000 participants in Croatia.
BBC micro:bit – STEM Revolution
One of the most recent and most successful crowdfunding projects in Croatia. It raised around 300 000 $ on Indiegogo and overcame the first goal by stunning 480 percent! The project is organised by the same people as the CM League and has a similar goal. They state: “Instead of 19th century style rote learning in the atmosphere of submission towards any kind of authority figure, kids need modern competencies, development of a growth mindset and a strong character.”
How do they want to do it? By a massive implementation of the micro:bit. Not only in STEM fields but also in design, arts and many other subjects.
e-Schools: Establishing a System for Developing Digitally Mature Schools
The only state/EU funded project on this list is a project from Croatian Academic and Research Network – CARNet. The project is aiming to introduce ICT into the school system in the 2015 – 2022 period. “e-Schools” programme focuses on establishing lifelong learning in the educational system.
The focus is on teachers who are responsible for in-class teaching and learning processes. Moreover, motivated teachers and digitally equipped schools elementary and high school students should be able to gain skills necessary for the labor market, and more important – lifelong learning.
A cute little hexapod called STEMI is another entry that has had an Indiegogo success. In 2015 it raised over 36000 USD and reached the goal in only 3 days. STEMI is a hexapod robot controlled via smartphone with a special “learning by creating” approach to STEM fields. Furthermore, STEMI users receive access to video tutorials that cover everything – from 3D modeling, electronics, mathematics to programming a mobile application. The fun part about the robot is its similarity to IKEA furniture – STEMI also arrives in assembly ready parts.
Some would say it is only a toy for kids, some would say it is AI. We say – its somewhere in between. A smartphone controlled toy can be whatever game the user wants. Smart Lumies combines an application with a real space toy. Effects for kids are multiple, it boosts kid’s creativity, motor skills, logic and algorithmic thinking. Focus of Lumies is on preschool and early elementary school kids which makes a great introduction to STEM way.