Towards a new Estonian STEM program: impact of the informal learning activities & school-company partnerships

Towards a new Estonian STEM program: impact of the informal learning activities & school-company partnerships

9 February 2023
Host organisation: 
Estonian Research Council
City & meeting location: 
Short summary: 

Inspiration meeting for the Estonian Research Council that focussed on 1) the impact of non-formal learning activities on students deciding to choose the STEM career; 2) the examples of the development of school-company partnerships in secondary education. The programmes JetNet&TechNet University of Tartu, STEAMsare and JAEurope provided very interesting examples. 

Objective of the meeting: 

The first stage of Estonian STEM programm „TeaMe“ has started from 2009 and consisted of several different activities aimed to increase the popularity of STEM among the youth and society in general.

The next stage „TeaMe+“ started from 2015 and lasted till 2020, but was extended till August 2023, that’s why now it is important to create a new multi-year programm for various education levels in different models and formats: such as hobby groups, camps, extra-curricular science education programs, out-of-school activities etc.

Some of the activities will continue further, but the main goal of Estonian taskforce meeting was to collect and assess new ideas, to get international inspiration from the European partners, as well as getting the best-practice examples of the programs and projects, and also the mistakes to avoid. So, the main goal was to get to know how other countries support STEM studies through informal learning activities.


The focus of the TFM was divided into two parts: 

1) the impact of non-formal learning activities on students deciding to choose the STEM career;

2) the examples of the development of school-company partnerships in secondary education.


The presentations of the 1st part:

1) „A regional approach supported by data & knowledge“ – Sebastiaan Smit – Jet-Net&TechNet, the Netherlands:

  • examples of regional and national approaches to supporting STEM
  • helping schools-companies cooperation in organizing activities to promote STEM in a right way – to have a right impact
  • the interest to STEM subjects among youth is going down. How to increase it?
  • Choice guidance in the world of technology – the model for the companies to organise activities, lectures, workshops in a easier and more practical way.
  • Career guidance – career days: students meet the professionals from industry, actively participate in workshops as well as getting to know more about the context of technology world.
  • Sciencemakers award.


2) „Lessons from an ecological citizen science initiative – win-win opportunities for research community and environmental education“ – Tsipe Aavik – University of Tartu, Estonia:

  • Sharing the experience of researchers’ point of view based on the citizen science example: how citizen science helps to come closer to the society – science campaign “Looking for cowslips”.
  • The easiest and most effective way to collect the data for the research – is to ask for help from citizen scientists! People of all ages, from kindergarden and older.
  • Citizen science initiative “Looking for cowslips”: find a cowslip, peek into the flower, make a picture and submit the information via web platform – that’s how the data is being collected for the further analyses.
  • Over 1700 observations all over Estonia during 2019; thousands of scientists; expanding the initiative to Europe; website in 25 languages; mainstream media, social media; lots of positive feedback from teachers.
  • The keys to support youngsters interest to citizen science: communication, collaboration; simple, interesting and attractive formats; understandable in native language; include minorities (disabled people); keep the dialogue, not monologue! And providing feedback.
  • Nearly 8300 observations all over Europe, more than 15000 photos.
  • Big support from volunteers from 20 academic institutions and other networks, lot’s of partners.
  • Tsipe Aavik citation: “There is potential for research and academia to use citizen science for collecting data at such an unprecedented scale for further scientific analyses (win-win), but the emotional reward seeing that people actually do come along is also great.”


3) „STEAMsare: A network to foster STEAM education and STEM professions” – Alaitz Landaluze – STEAMsare, Basque country.

  • STE(A)M ecosystem in Basque: 1) STEAM EUSKADI SARIAK – the regional prize – to get to know about all the activities going on all around the region, to recognise the best works; helping the STEM organisations to improve their activities and programs. 2) STEAM EUSKADI TOPAKETAK – the link to the previous initiative, aims to show the finalists and the winners. 3) STEAMSare – the network that supports all the ecosystem in more structure way. The network inspired by Jet-Net program.
  • The main goal of the STEAMSare network is to increase youth’s interest in STEM and to improve the learning, as well as highlighting the diversity, appeal and employment opportunities of the STEM professions.
  • The network connects entities with education centres, develops STEAM education activities; raises the awareness of diversity and job opportunities; shares experience of the best-practices.
  • The activities: programs and workshops; professional guidance days; meeting metween member entities. The companies help the teachers to do their work.
  • Pilot-project: professional guidance day.
  • The goals for 2023: up to 100 schools taking part in STEMSare; streamline the registration process to the main education initiatives; organise the becnhmark STEM professional guidance days involving universities, VET and secondary students; align the STEAM Sare activity overall to the education policy of the Ministry.
  • STEAM Sare catalogue – methodological dosier of all the activities that run in the network.


The presentations of the 2nd part:

4) „A Step in STEM, a novel approach in French school for elementary students and kindergarten students: case studies“ – Florent Le Bourhis – UPSTI, France.

  • Presentation of the UPSTI organization – is a French association of teachers from secondary school to university and industrials. UPSTI promotes science and technology to schools and politics, promotes scientific career to students and to young women as well.
  • Step in STEM: a French event to promote STEM in French school and to train primary school teachers. The objectives: 1) assisting the teachers of elementary school; 2) organize 3 days of STEM actions in elementary school and kindergarten. Approach: doing the science classes in teacher’s classroom and with the teacher.
  • Two case studies: kindergarten and primary school. Examples of two robotic classes – for kindergarten and for elementary school level. For both levels there is 1 hour of practical robotics activity during 1 day in the week, 6 weeks.
  • The reason to do these robotic classes – because we need to start earlier to increase the interest to STEM subjects among youngsters.


5) „Getting Europe’s youth into STEM: Junior Achievement showcase” – Minna Melleri – JA Europe, France.

  • JA Europe – part of the global network, 40 countries in Europe, over 100 years, entrepreneurship education. Inspire and empower youngsters to make our world better by doing something meaningful in local communities.
  •  Educational programs in schools, in classroom, with a teacher, but also with external experts of the working world (business, industry, STEM experts).
  • For all the age groups, from kindergarten to universities: “from ABC to PhD!”
  • Approach: entrepreneurship, work readiness, and financial literacy. Mixing this approach with other subjects, such as STEM, digital skills and a focus on sustainability.
  • How to get youth into STEM?  
  • Full-year programs where students need to create a company or a start-up including all the parts: business part, solutions, developing of business plan, marketing and sales, production, financials etc.
  • During COVID more online forms were created, such as hackatons, online innovation camps etc.
  • The keys: starting from the early age; involve more girls; connecting the STEM programs to real-life solutions, more practical challenges; showcase and explain the STEM career path.
  • Sci-Tech Challenge: ExxonMobil volunteers visit students at school to share their career story.
  • National Challenge: students need to solve a given problem within a very short time.
  • GirlsGoCircular with EIT: targeting 40000 girls aged 14-19, addressing societal challenges through digital and entrepreneurial approach.
  • The Sustainability Challenge: the example of online platform for different student’s innovation projects for different age groups.
  • Deep Tech: an Artificial Intelligence project. The main goal – to get 1 mln skilled people by 2025.
Next steps: 

The input of the presentations as well as the new ideas for creating a new Estonian STEM program will be discussed and processed at the next steering group meeting at the Estonian Research Council till the end of February 2023.

TFM recordings will be shared digitally. Participants’ contacts will be shared if needed.

Next TFM (probably online) will be scheduled for the end of May or beginning of June 2023. The focus of the next TFM will be overview of the work done and implementation of new ideas into the new programm or similar.