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Girls Into Global STEM
Start date: Sep 1, 2016, End date: Aug 31, 2019 PROJECT  ONGOING 

The issue of gender bias in STEM (science, technology, engineering and maths) subjects and careers is a transnational problem recognised by business leaders, higher education and by the European Commission. The issue originates in schools when many girls make critical subject choices that will effectively lock them out from STEM in higher education and employment. This is coupled with the pervasive cultural stereotype of the male scientist or engineer and entrenched parochial attitudes. The gender in-balance in STEM subjects and in employment statistics are transnational concerns which extend to most EU countries, yet these themes do not feature prominently in teacher training while initiatives and resources launched by subject associations, education providers and others often tend to feature a ‘top-down’ approach.This project aims to increase the employment potential of all young Europeans, but especially girls, by improving their interest and engagement in STEM subjects through linking these to a wider awareness of global issues. Our partnership organisations have evidence through their existing work that bringing together STEM and global education often with an additional local dimension results in added motivation for girls and a sustained interest in these key subjects. By working initially with carefully selected pilot schools we will avoid the shortcomings of the ‘top-down’ approach. In addition, practical solutions to some of global challenges and problems on which the target groups will work are best developed internationally if they are to have wider credibility. The project will facilitate much of this work through the development of digital skills and especially through the collaborative authoring of eBooks. This aspect capitalises on existing partner expertise. It enables dissemination to new and developing networks exploring this pedagogy, but most importantly brings with it an inclusive element as young people incorporate their virtually ubiquitous access to mobile technologies into their learning. Our partnership of nine institutions brings together NGOs, universities and secondary schools. Each will contribute their experience of international partnerships, global education, previous STEM activities and cutting edge research into mobile learning to the project, but they also have in common their capacity to innovate and to work collaboratively. Although the partnership has been specially created for this project all the partners have previously worked with at least one other member of the team. The planned activities will initially focus on the work of the universities, NGOs and pilot schools to develop and test a series of bespoke Global STEM Challenges aimed at engaging all pupils, but especially girls, in creating practical solutions to real world global issues. With support from their national partner organisation schools will collect, adapt and produce materials which they feel will support other pupils to take part in a focused STEM challenge. They will trial these with younger (or other) pupils in their own school and in their partner school. A further part of the brief will be for pupils to interview female researchers working on global issues in different countries and to incorporate these video clips in their materials. These outputs will form the nucleus of an online Teacher Toolkit. The pilot schools will also start the process of constructing and testing in-service and pre-service training materials that would help to convince teachers and teacher trainers to adopt these methodologies. The training activities will populate an online Teacher Education Programme to be demonstrated to early adopters through a series of local dissemination sessions and Multiplier Events. All of these activities will be rigorously benchmarked, monitored and evaluated, including pupil evaluations, so providing the partnership with credible data and enabling them to work together on a series of academic papers and presentations, an essential part of the dissemination process. Throughout these activities we will employ a ‘bottom up’ approach with carefully planned involvement of the pilot schools and their staff and pupils. For this reason pupils play a key role at the end of Year 1 in a Joint Pupil Mobility and staff at the end of Year 2 in a Learning Teaching and Training Activity.We envisage significant impact at local, regional, national and international levels. Our project partners, including pilot schools, have committed to incorporating project methodologies and outputs into their existing networks. These not only reach teachers and global educators but also influence policy makers and groups set up specifically to combat gender inequality in STEM. By the end of the project we would also expect each partner to be part of a new network which would be established partly as a result of national dissemination sessions funded through the project and though other dissemination activities.

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