The European Committee of the Regions is calling for measures to promote science, technology, engineering and mathematics (STEM) education in Europe, especially among girls and women. With an opinion prepared by Csaba Borboly (RO/EPP), President of Harghita County Council, the EU's assembly of local and regional representatives calls on the European Commission and the Member States to support STEM-related initiatives at local and regional level, to ensure necessary investment and to tackle shortages in this field in the planning of cohesion policy.
"STEM subjects form the basis for an innovation-based economy and are drivers for growth and jobs. However, there is a European wide of shortage of teachers specialised in STEM and the results of the education systems are not always in line with the needs of the labour market. It is also crucial to close the gender gap, as the proportion of women in STEM education and jobs remains low", rapporteur Borboly stresses.
Through Mr Borboly's opinion, cities and regions urge the European Commission and the Member States to ensure necessary investment from Member State or EU funds and to ensure a more targeted approach to shortages of STEM skills in the planning of cohesion policy for EU's next budget period (2021-2027).
"Supporting STEM-related initiatives at local and regional level can help to bridge the gap in development between the various regions and to limit the harmful effects of the brain drain. Especially in the field vocational education and adult training there are possibilities for organising specialised, short-term training courses with the support of professional bodies and organisations", rapporteur Borboly points out.
The Committee highlights that STEM subjects should be attractive to pupils from very early age and that awareness raising and promotion campaigns should target parents with particular focus on closing the gender gap. In this regard, the opinion proposes career guidance programmes and targeted study and apprenticeship grants to challenge gender stereotypes, to promote women's STEM skills and education and to increase their share in STEM-related employment and entrepreneurship.
The opinion, which was adopted at the European Committee of the Regions' plenary session on 26 June, also emphasises that STEM education should be multidisciplinary and evolve towards STE(A)M by incorporating the concept of arts to the discovery process, thus breaking the traditional boundaries between the humanities and the science to equip learners with complex problem solving, creativity, critical thinking, people management and cognitive flexibility.
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