On the 17th and 18th of April a taskforce meeting was organised by the Óbuda University/Hungarian STEM with the goal of addressing developments in the field of STEM education, as well as to facilitate international networking with a particular focus on the central and eastern regions of Europe with representatives of Romania, Slovakia, Bulgaria and Croatia present. With inspiration from i.e. LUMA centre, Hungarian STEM platform and the EU STEM Coalition, those countries can start working on improving STEM education in their own countries, with all organisations being available to assist.
This taskforce meeting was organized so as to address developments in the field of STEM education, as well as to facilitate international networking with a particular focus on the central and eastern regions of Europe.
Additionally, this meeting provided a platform to present the role of Óbuda University in the European STEM ecosystem, as well as the role of the EU STEM Coalition in STEM promotion and knowledge sharing.
A networking dinner was organised for the participants to get to know eachother and eachothers' organisations in an informal way.
The event began with an introductory speech from Tamás Kersánszki, who is the Head of the STEM Office at Óbuda University and the Hungarian STEM Platform. Tamás welcomed the attendees, then introduced the purposes and goals of the conference. After this, he introduced the Vice Rector of Education at Óbuda University, Dr. Habil. Ervin Rácz.
First Speaker: Vice Rector of Education at Óbuda University on STEM developments at Óbuda University and within the framework of the Hungarian STEM Platform.
Dr. Habil Ervin Rácz explained that the Hungarian STEM Platform was first established back in 2018, and today, they are a part of the EU STEM Coalition, as well as the Eastern states Coalition. They participate in such activities as knowledge sharing, networking, and so on.
Next, Dr. Habil Ervin Rácz spoke about some of the developments which have been taking place at Óbuda University. He said that, in the field of STEM, the university has been focusing on such subjects as cyber security, robotics, military industry, green energy, artificial intelligence, and more. He pointed out that student participation related to these subjects at the university has been increasing, and that they have been able to improve the university’s global ranking.
Lately, one of the programs which they have been focusing on is aimed at reducing the rate of student dropouts. They have been approaching this goal by pursuing such activities as follows:
The University now also has a STEM office, which conducts university outreach, as well as the promotion of the field more generally.
Second speaker: Topias Ikävalko from University of Helsinki on LUMA Centre.
Topias Ikävalko introduced the Finnish LUMA Center. He described the LUMA Center as an organization supporting STEAM. In other words, they support all forms of science. This is done by promoting lifelong learning, the attractiveness of academic studies, and science communication generally.
The LUMA Center first was opened in the 1990s, when Finland’s industry sector began to expand. The ministry wanted to ensure that the population was educated in such a way which could meet the needs of the job market, so LUMA was opened to help achieve this. Now the LUMA Center has networks all over the country.
Topias said that last month an action plan was put out by the Finish ministry to elaborate on the STEM strategy which was announced last year.
This action plan involves the following:
One of the great challenges which LUMA is facing today is promoting education in Finland. The percentage of the Finish population with a higher education degree is lower than the EU average. LUMA would like to bring the percentage of the population with a high education to 50%.
They are also trying to figure out how to support academically high achieving boys, while also supporting low achieving boys, and find ways to better encourage girls to go into STEM.
Topias also introduced an LUMA lab program. These labs are free of charge, and made available to school groups, to help support their curriculum.
This is all a part of their goal to promote science as a hobby to a wide range of age groups. They utilize their whole network to achieve this.
Additionally, LUMA engages in research to monitor the effectiveness of their activities.
Third speaker: Dr. Laura Sinóros-Szabó, the Head of Department at the Ministry for Innovation and
Technology, on STEM government developments in Hungary, Women in STEM.
Dr. Sinóros-Szabó presented to us the more top-down government approach to Hungarian STEM education, specifically, the promotion of STEM for women. She explained that over 50% of students in Hungary are women, and 42.7% of the staff involved with STEM education are women. Of course, these percentages are nearly ideal. However, while the general rates of Hungarian women in STEM are almost equal to those of men, when it comes to getting PhD's, the rate of female participation drops.
To help improve the rates of women in STEM, the ministry developed an Empowering Women Action Plan. This action plan entails the following:
The action plan is funded both by the EU and the Hungarian national budget.
Another aspect of the action plan involves government and civil society cooperation. 190 companies and universities are involved with this program.
The next speaker was Beatrice Boots from the EU STEM Coalition. Beatrice gave a presentation in which she first explained the history behind the EU STEM Coalition as well as some of the activities which the EU STEM Coalition partakes in, such as:
Beatrice showed specific examples of these activities.
Next, she explained how the organization of the EU STEM Coalition functions, and what the roles of its members are. She also told the attendees that the Coalition could assist them in their own national STEM related activities.
STEM developments in the Central European region
Croatia, Romania, Slovakia and Bulgaria have given a short presentation about the STEM developments in their countries. The bottom line from these presentations was that a structural approach is lacking and improvement is still possible.
In small groups the following questions points were discussed;
What are the biggest challenges when implementing successful programmes concerning STEM education in your country? How could they be overcome?
How can the attending countries collaborate on integrated STEM education?