Today the Minister for Education and Skills, Richard Bruton, T.D. today launched his Department’s STEM Education Policy Statement 2017-2026 and Implementation Plan 2017-2019. The Minister is taking a long-term view on developing STEM learning across the entire school system from Early Childhood to Leaving Cert.
He stated at the launch event
I have set the ambition to make Ireland’s education and training service the best in Europe by 2026. We are living in a rapidly changing world and key to delivering on our ambition to be the best will be the ability of our education system to adapt to a transformed economy and society. Our children must be equipped with the necessary analytical, creativity and critical thinking skills to thrive in such an environment.
“That is why, during my time as Minister, I have prioritised the teaching and learning of STEM subjects. This Plan sets out how we will make Ireland a leader in the provision of STEM education.
The Strategy builds on the earlier STEM Education in the Irish Education System, which was launched by the Department last December. STEM education not only involves the teaching of these disciplines and subjects in isolation but also involves a cross-disciplinary approach.
It focuses on developing a range of Key Skills that are essential for living and working in today’s world. Learners will engage in a range of activities that include
• using their skills and content knowledge to creatively solve problems
• imagining, questioning and exploring
• collaborating with others
• engaging in inquiry and analysis
• innovating, designing and making
• testing and modifying their solutions to complex problems
When students were asked how they would like to engage with STEM Education they all highlighted their desire to engage in active learning activities where they could deepen their conceptual knowledge of STEM to solve real-world problems.
The Strategy Statement recognises that the provision of STEM learning experiences is not only confined to early years settings and schools. STEM learning opportunities present themselves in both formal and informal settings within an evolving eco-system (see Figure 2) and can take place, for example, in the home, in museums, at coding workshops or in industry. It also extends to the areas of further and higher education.
Furthermore, the Department is very aware of the real challenges that exist in implementing such as strategy statement and they are taking a long-term view to ensure they achieve their vision.
Our vision for STEM education: In line with our ambition to have the best education and training service in Europe by 2026, Ireland will be internationally recognised as providing the highest quality STEM education experience for learners that nurtures curiosity, inquiry, problem-solving, creativity, ethical behaviour, confidence, and persistence, along with the excitement of collaborative innovation.
To make this a reality have developed an accompanying STEM Implementation Plan that seeks to bring this vision to life over the next 10 years.
The Implementation Plan sets out a range of objectives to be achieved between now and 2019 across 4 pillars. These are:
- Pillar 1. Nurture learner engagement and participation
- Pillar 2. Enhance early years practitioner and teacher capacity
- Pillar 3. Support STEM education practice
- Pillar 4. Use evidence to support STEM education
The Implementation Plan sees the indicators of Success as follows:
- All learners will have improved performance in STEM education
- Increased uptake of Leaving Certificate Chemistry, Physics, Technology and Engineering by 20%
- Increased uptake by females of STEM subjects by 40%
- Increased applications for STEM courses in CAO and retention in STEM courses
- All schools to incorporate STEM within their whole-school planning activities
- All schools, early years settings, learners and parents to have increased awareness and appreciation of the importance, value and opportunity in STEM with particular focus on females
- The gap in achievement in STEM disciplines between students in DEIS schools and students in all schools is significantly reduced
- A quality assured programme of STEM professional development provided to early years practitioners and teachers
- All schools will provide a better teaching, learning and assessment environment in STEM education
- All schools, learners and parents will have access to quality STEM career information and more opportunities to experience the diversity of STEM careers
- All learners will have access to co-curricular and out-of-school STEM learning opportunities with a 20% increase in extra-curricular STEM activities across schools
- Robust and sustainable partnerships in place between schools, business and industry, public sector
- bodies, research organisations, further and higher-level institutions, and the wider STEM community
- Partnerships in place with Arts education promoting creativity, universal design and design thinking
- A STEM awards programme in place to recognise student participation in informal and extracurricular
- STEM activities and events
A sense of realism
The Department recognise that the implementation of the Policy Statement will require a co-ordinated effort by all stakeholders and education partners. Thus, they are taking a long-term view to its implementation, and where possible learn from other systems to ensure Ireland achieves the Minister’s intention of making Ireland a European leader in STEM education by 2026.