Occupations of the future have been changing rapidly, and the knowledge and skills acquired today may not be enough while preparing our students for life.
Studies funded by the European Commission have highlighted important issues regarding STEM in education systems, including the low attractiveness of studies and careers in STEM areas. It also reported that there are unmet labor market needs in these areas that are expected to grow in the future (European Schoolnet, 2018). STEM careers are considered as ‘the job’ of the future; the European Parliament forecasts around 7 million new STEM jobs by 2025 (Education 2030 Unesco, 2017).
Due to the importance of individual preparation to work in the technologically advanced world, there has been a growing interest in STE(A)M education over the past years. A move from STEM education where subjects are taught in silos with focus on scientific concepts to a STE(A)M approach in teaching and learning where concepts are investigated through interaction between STEM and non-STEM subjects and links to economic, environmental and social challenges is important to increase young people’s interest and motivation to study STEM subjects and to choose STEM careers and produce a workforce that is capable of tackling complex challenges through creative and interdisciplinary approaches.
The aim of the proposal is to provide practical solution so as to help closing the gap between industry needs/expectations and educational system outputs, by creating a STE(A)M education master programme to train in-service and future educators at all levels of education to implement STEAMrelated courses in the target countries. In this context, the consortium will transfer significant know how from the European Educational System that will be used by the partner country Institutions to design an advanced, practical MSc Curriculum for STE(A)M education. The absence of such a degree makes the need for its design and introduction pressing and the consortium envisages that this effort will spearhead similar endeavors in other Balkan countries.
The objectives of the proposal are to:
1. Develop new specialized curriculum and an innovative MSc programme on STE(A)M education thus helping build the capacity of the partner countries’ HEIs, improve the level of competences and skills offered, and address the existing absence of similar programmes. The consortium will also research and formalise the design of multi-stage, mixed model where concepts are investigated through interaction between STEM and non-STEM subjects and links to economic, environmental and social challenges. The aim of this MSc programme is to enhance future and in-service teaches and training, in order to develop a broad theoretical base reflecting current cutting edge research within STE(A)M education, to comprehend and demonstrate specialised knowledge and skills in cross-disciplinary approaches, to choose and use appropriate methods for active learning while teaching the elements of STE(A)M, to design, develop and evaluate curricula and materials for STE(A)M-related courses they can later apply to specific contexts and levels, to engage deeply with the world of practice through visits to schools or other institutions related to formal and informal learning, to equipped with the knowledge and skills to solve complex workplace problems and find flexible, intelligent, innovative solutions at the professional level, and to identify, design and implement effective STE(A)M-related training and development programmes.
2. Establish viable synergies and links with the STEM and non-STEM HEIs departments in order to address the low internet of graduates of the Partner Countries in STEM carries. The partnership will achieve these objectives by addressing the current gap in the region for a specialized MSc programme in STE(A)M education, thus providing the educational community with a steady stream of highly-qualified educators of all the levels of education. Viable synergies and links with the regional educational institutes will be established, through action such as the master thesis cross-curriculum topics and targeted dissemination activities including the STE(A)M education Final Conference. The synergies will also be reinforced by the formation of a Community of Practice for STE(A)M Education that will be supported by a virtual environment which will foster cooperation and exchange of good practices among community members.
3. Reinforce the infrastructure of the Partner Counties’ HEIs by establishing STE(A)M Laboratories that will act as foci for research and innovation in the area thus ensuring that STE(A)M education will remain high in the regional priorities agenda for a long time after the project has been completed.
4. Reinforce the capacity of the Partner Countries’ HEIs by training their academic staff in the new courses and appropriate delivery methods. This will be achieved by developing a training virtual learning environment to support the Partner Countries HEIs’ academic staff during and after the project. 5. Stimulate greater human connectivity through the exchange of students and staff, which is enabled through global and regional networks, and consortium of higher education institutions. Promote cooperation, exchange of know-how and good practices in the subject area between EU and PC HEIs. Creation of Alumni virtual centres and organizing info days for STE(A)M education.
Objective 1 will address the need for concrete steps towards establishing a cross-curriculum educational ecosystem. The consortium will advance beyond simply designing one curriculum but rather towards a methodology for designing programmes for “reskilling” or planning new and better careers for STEM subjects though STE(A)M education. This way, educational curriculums will be designed to focus on educational model diversity, technology and leadership skills in new and exciting ways. Demand in target countries is already shifting towards vocational skills, lifelong learning and the ability of the new employee to arrive with a specific practical skills set and be fully “job ready”. This requirement is met through the employment of agile, adaptable and bespoke curriculums where apprenticeships are an
Objective 2 will the need the educational system address to address the practical needs of the required skills that future citizen should have. STE(A)M education is about applying creative thinking to STEM projects, igniting students’ imagination and creativity through the arts. It also explores where art naturally fits into the STEM subjects. Studying art subjects contributes to the development of essential skills like collaboration, communication, problem-solving, and critical thinking. It also enhances a student’s flexibility, adaptability, productivity, responsibility, and innovation.
Objectives 3 and 4 are a direct answer to the need for re-designing education and setting new, Integrated Educational goals due to the lack of knowhow on how this will be actually achieved. According to many experts, the STE(A)M education is a complex phenomenon that is not easily fathomed and there are significant difficulties for educators in order to implement such courses . The target countries’ educational system is expected to produce educators that can fit the needs of this integrated education. Thus, it is expected that master’s graduates should be the goal of the educational system. In turn, this requires the appropriate preparation of the educational system both in terms of human capital (educators) and means of delivery (educational processes, structures, equipment, methodologies).
Objective 5 addresses horizontally the majority of the needs identified, by implementing a hub for knowledge transfer and exchange of good practices between the EU and the target countries. Info Days will be held so that major HEIs, lifelong learning organizations or other organizations which are interesting in STEM skills improvement will take part. Virtual Alumni will be set up in all partner universities. It will make use of the most suitable methods for cooperation and the involvement of future employers in academic activities through contacts with graduates, platforms for cooperation with the professional sector, events and by supporting lectures from practitioners and the improvement of students‘ soft skills.
The consortium initiated a preliminary feasibility study for the proposal. In this study, which includes the review of similar programmes, the views and opinions of the experts from the participating Universities, we concluded that the objectives are feasible if certain parameters are taken into account. These parameters include taking into account inter alia by ensuring mainly that the exchange of knowledge and internships provide clear benefits to all involved parties, that they serve the Educational country specific policies, and that the structure, duration, content and means of delivery of courses is in line with the needs of and constraints facing all involved parties.
The project outputs – namely the MSc Curriculum in STE(A)M education will directly benefit the HEIs but shall also have a wider and further impact on students, academic and administrative staff, schools, policy makers and HE and business organisations in the target countries. They will also impact European University partners and organisations and their members.
The advanced, multidisciplinary-focused curricula of the programmes will bring together the Science and Arts disciplines to share knowledge, practices and to test processes to find innovative ways to takes STEM to the next level: the STE(A)M approach will allows students to connect their learning in these critical areas together with arts practices, elements, design principles, and standards to provide the whole pallet of learning at their disposal. STEAM removes limitations and replaces them with wonder, critique, inquiry, and innovation.
It will also help advancing the theory and practice in STE(A)M related topics through high quality research and learning by creating both STE(A)M Labs and specific educational material and additional resources for STEAM education. All target groups will be able to develop excellent transversal leadership skills, reflective practice, entrepreneurial mind-sets, equipping them to adapt to continuous change in the country’s labour market. In BiH, an additional need is STE(A)M capacity buiding by university staff and resources. This need will be met by the several project outputs:
-The MSc in STE(A)M education will have a positive impact at University level as it will enlarge the number of the programs offered by BiH Universities. At community level it will also have a positive impact as a result of the increased scale use by institutions, corporations, and education and tech professionals in this field of study.
– The MSc in STE(A)M education will help not only to produce and share resources and ideas but also form policies by involving policy-makers, government, ministries of education and relevant stakeholders together with academics and practitioners. The gap between industry and education will be reduced by promoting and actively supporting training of educators in all level of education, including in-company training.
Graduate students, HEIs staff and academics will be helped by the mutually supportive network and learning community:
– the students by their direct introduction to STE(A)M education contexts from the early stages of their studies,
– The HEIs and academics from new knowledge concerning modern and cross-curriculum methodology of learning and with the exchange of experiences and good practices In addition, this new MSc in STE(A)M education will enhance Albania’s two main needs related to the approaches between students and teachers, and to promote innovative and cross-disciplinary approaches to STEAM in order Albanian graduates be more competitive in STEAM subjects compared to their foreign graduates. All HEIs of partner countries will directly benefit from the focus groups, capacity development study visits to Europe and the application of the Cubiculum. They will professionalize the management of knowledge in their institutions, learn from each other and from European good practice and develop in particular new practices that both their international offices and relevant faculties can apply. The establishment of STE(A)M Labs, in conjunction with the curriculum, will be used to synchronize preservice and in-service training of STE(A)M educators (teachers and trainers) with changing requirements of digitalisation processes, utilize technology to create new pathways for science, integrate Art subjects in STEM education, engage deeply with the world of practice through visits to schools or other institutions related to formal and informal learning help to develop stronger policy coherence/coordination between employment and skills policies in Balkan countries. Furthermore, due to the need for more resources by many stakeholders, they will maximize asset utilization industry skill needs and more flexibility and innovation in HEIs, so that young people can adapt to changing labour markets. The HEIs will also gain concrete insight on designing and managing futureskills MSc programmes and be able to shape policy in their countries and utilize the MSc development process in order to assess and/or improve existing curriculum. The new master will meet the need for developing new models of training as the BiH government has not been able to provide sufficient quality and quantity of training for the labour market.
The Kosovo Educational and manufacturing sector will benefit from the expected results through:
• The creation of new opportunities for innovation and growth. Data gathered through multidisciplinary HEIs faculties can enable a deeper understanding of the required reform of future education.
• The STE(A)M Labs will help serve the requirement for not only technical competencies but also communication, collaboration, critical thinking and creativity. They will provide a push to the much needed shift away from teacher-centred learning towards a student-centred approach. Problem based learning, inquiry based learning, and curriculum design will be the tools to help improve learning outcomes and better prepare educators for STEAM education. They also be linked to training centres to provide an effective way for the numerous lifelong learning centres to share the costs associated with training and apprenticeships.
• The Kosovo educational system is struggling to stay competitive in light of the next production revolution and that as jobs become more complex. The project will provide that multidisciplinary approach is crucial to better understanding the impact of the required skills of the future job market. It will also facilitate the process of understanding how well existing curricula is meeting those needs and how educators and trainers can be better supported to upgrade their skills. The challenges of the educational system of BiH, Albania and Kosovo, namely the need for quality education in conjunction with the STEM subjects is supported by the social nature of the proposed curriculum (STE(A)M education). Ease of access to target groups that may face exclusion (in-service educators, part time learners, lifelong learners) will be supported by the online environment that will support the learning the process.
Activities to increase the capacity of the HEIs both academically and managerially include the operation of STE(A)M Labs and academic structures that support equality, inclusion, ease of access, quality assurance and sustainability. Furthermore, the project will addresses the regional priority of Multidisciplinarity / Interdisciplinarity as the focus of the proposed master is the multidisciplinary and the use of cross-curricula from different fields (Science, Technology, Engineering, Art and Maths) through creative and interdisciplinary approaches. The second regional priority of Learning and teaching tools, methodologies and pedagogical approaches including learning outcomes and ICT-based practices reflected in the methodology that the MSc development will follow based on TPACK approach and the STE(A)M labs that will be establish during the project.
In Albania, the objectives are served as follows:
– Modernization is supported by the development of a curriculum that currently is not offered by HEIs in a subject that is considered strategically important by the government.
– Internationalization is supported, the exchange of visits and knowledge with European Universities and the networking, initially with numerous HEIs in the three target countries and subsequently with their networks of associates Balkanian-wide and European-wide. In BiH, the objectives of the action of fostering regional and international cooperation, through the exchange of good practices among partner HEIs regionally within Balkan, with respect to establishing alumni networks and centres, practical training/internships and informal activities. The project team has worked together on Erasmus funded projects, and the proposed project would further already existing cooperative frameworks between partner HEIs. The project also seeks to address the Capacity Building objective of improving the quality of higher education and enhance its relevance for the labour market and society.
In Kosovo, besides the above-mentioned contribution, the project complements existing internationalisation strategies of the target HEIs. In addition, It builds on the extensive existing partnerships between the participating HEIs in Western Balkans and Europe. Innovative in that it seeks to create new Alumni Centres and over-arching Platforms for Cooperation with Professional Sector in the Partner Country organizations, which do not currently poses.
The project’s strategy for internationalisation includes a cross-country external and a country-specific aspect.
Cross country Strategy
The programme will developed common practices for all target countries coordinated by an academic and an administrative team formed by representatives of every consortium member to manage the activities of the programme. On top of that, adequate time will be appointed during project meetings to discuss on-going issues and decide on internationalisation policies and strategies. Concerning modernization, we will focus especially on structural changes that will directly benefit the HEIs, initiating specific activities with general goals that will be specialized for each target institution:
-The establishment or enlargement of international offices to address the management of the consortium, the mobility of students, the evaluation procedures, the awarding of the degrees etc. -The implementation or improvement of student services, which are essential to face the issues that students coming from different countries may encounter and also help ensure the smooth management of the programmes -The exchange and adoption of best practices to deliver simpler or more effective educational procedures.
In BiH, HEIs SUM, UNMO, UNSA and UNBI consider internationalisation as one of the key aims of the strategy for the future. This does not only apply to the students or to the management level of master courses: course delivery needs to be internationalised as well. Visiting scholars and guest lecturers, the exchange of knowledge and cooperation through partners and the organisation of conferences and dissemination activities for STE(A)M education will allow then to share different forms of knowledge, to discuss the results of their research activities, to broaden the spectrum of their investigations, and to include alternative approaches to teaching relevant topics. Cultural exchanges with other partner countries and the European Institutions will be beneficial since they will acquire greater visibility and recognition. Students will have the opportunity to explore different perspectives on their field of study and will be engaged in laboratory-based courses as well, in order to develop their technical STEM skills. It is the goal of the BiH HEIs to achieve the sustainability of the programme by maintaining and possibly enlarging their international network and activities after the end of the funding. Most of the active masters in these HEIs host visiting scholars and guest lecturers, attracted by the reputation and visibility of the programmes.
Kosovo HEIs, UPHP, UKZ, UBT and UC will form an internationalization cluster to make the most out of internationalization activities through synergy and co-financing. The reinforcement of “jointness” at all levels of cooperation of the cluster shall strengthen the institutions’ commitment by making full use of their complementary skills, learning from their respective approaches, and increasing internationalization and visibility of the proposed curriculum. The HEIs will modernize their offerings by developing professional partnerships for academia, creating connections between academia and the neighbouring countries, exchanging experiences and best practices. Albania HEIs UT, UET, UV, UNISHK and UNIKO will apply the same practices as their counterparts in the other two target countries with some important additions that will serve their specific needs. Modernisation will be served by the significant improvement of didactic practices and methodologies introduced by this programme. Through the mutual exchange of information, competences and expertise, both institutions will learn not only from one another but also from their fellow institutions in BiH and Kosovo. The co-development and application of new and innovative approaches to learning will serve their strategic goal for modernization. Furthermore, the development of strong links and cooperation in research activities, both inside and outside of the proposed master programme will lead to frequent purposeful interactions. The co-running of the programme also facilitates communicationand creates contacts and occasions for discussion, resulting in easier collaborations. It must be noted that these institutions will benefit from their experience in participation in an EU funded programme and it is expected that they will acquire the so much needed expertise in order to apply for other EU-funded or industry- funded programmes. Academic staff will also acquire valuable, up to date knowledge of administrative procedures, evaluation criteria, good practice examples that constitute an asset in the development of new projects for STE(A)M education. The participation of Albania’s HEIs in this programme will surely increase the visibility, reputation, and internationalization of said institutions.
Inclusion issues and diversity of the results will be achieved by specific measures:
1.Strategic actions and networking:
a)involving policy-makers and relevant stakeholders together with academics and practitioners to start an Balkan network on STE(A)M education programmes inclusion, b)promoting co-operation and exchange of good practices for inclusion between academics, students and practitioners at a national, regional and international level.
2.Establishment of structures. HEIs in the target countries will be encouraged to establish:
c)a Diversity Policy and Action Plan with long-term and short-term goals. Diversity, transparent goals and participation of all members of the HEIs’ community (students and staff, particularly those who are systematically underrepresented) will be the central focus.
d)a Diversity Unit responsible for coordination of diversity policies and the implementation and monitoring of the action plan. The Unit should monitor progress toward an inclusive University in numerical terms and research the desirability and implementation of quota with respect to gender and race/ethnicity if those goals are not met within the period set.
3.Increase the openness of knowledge:
e)by giving institutional value and visibility to practices enriching diversity, through including diversity as an important element in the proposed curriculum (in teaching evaluations, in course evaluations, in research evaluations and promotion criteria).
f)Make researchers, teaching staff and students more aware of the positional of knowledge, and create space for divergent perspectives.
g)Use ‘curricula scans’ to monitor and stimulate the development of diversity-rich courses given by experienced teaching staff and trained professionals, who can also act as a sounding-board for teaching staff in developing their courses.
h)Further develop and stimulate participatory teaching methods.
The most innovative element of this project is not only the fact that is addresses a highly innovative and urgent paradigm of educational practices but also the approach of developing a holistic eduational programme, oriented to all levels of education and the target groups include people with different academic backgound (graduates, in-service educators, trainers from differnent fields). It is also oriented to foster interaction between them so that the educators are able to benefit one from each other taking advantage of the synergies that will be created. Since the quality of education and the learning outcomes are the bedrock of the future society, it is important to ensure the systemic changes to educator induction and pre- and in-service professional development as well as what happens in classrooms. It is important to shift the focus on how students and teachers teach and learn together. Many of these actions are within the direct control of teachers, course leaders and schools. The quality of an education system cannot exceed the quality of its teachers but schools and science teachers do not work in isolation.
Partner Institutions postgraduate programmes are somewhat isolated from the co-oparation with other disciplines. The proposed programme will bring together education, technology, science and arts, enabling the exchange of knowledge between them. The key innovative differentiator of this proposal has to do with combining different learning approaches:
-the creation of a holistic approach for educators professional development involving HE Institutions and the lifelong learning centers stakeholders,
– peer-to-peer learning opportunities, such as the “action learning” approach,
– in-presence and online permanent support, lifelong learning services and mentoring programs,
– a hub of digital resources and knowledge exchange and conferences addressing new opportunities and concerns for STE(A)M education, creating networking opportunities.
The results of this combined approach shall provide specific solutions for specific situations and contexts throughout Europe and also a common ground of expertise and networking that today doesn’t exist.
According to a report published by the EIB in 2019, the Western Balkans region suffers from a lack of skilled workers, innovation, energy and strategic infrastructure. There is a lack of adequate research funds and training institutions to educate people and prepare them for the challenges of tomorrow. The region ranks 77th out of 140 countries in the World Economic Forum Competitiveness Indicator, with a particularly low score in innovation and business sophistication. In this context, this project offers the ability to some top European HEIs to support their Western Balkans peers in Kosovo, Albania and BHI build their capacity, by developing specialized curricula on STE(A)M methods. By creating a transnational consortium, the project will facilitate the transfer of knowledge from leading EU research-intensive HEIs to Western Balkan HEIs to upgrade their educational methodologies and practices addressing the lack of strategic planning and inadequate funding to develop STE(A)M educational frameworks and respective qualified educators. The project will also enhance connectivity, facilitate strategic alliances and create strong ties between academic institutions and people, students, academics and scientists from the partner-countries enlarging the European community spirit in the Western Balkans HEIs.