Europe faces both a remarkable decrease in the interest of young people in Science, Technology, Engineering and Mathematics (STEM) subjects as well as a decline in the uptake of STEM careers. These shortages could not only affect the future of tertiary education systems but also jeopardize the pillars for a knowledge based society and economy in Europe.
During the past decade, this issue has been the focus of considerable attention and several documents have been published on this matter. The EC commissioned a report - Science Education NOW: A Renewed Pedagogy for the Future of Europe (EC, 2007) - that focused at successful projects that worked with the way science is taught in schools, concluding with an appeal to promote inquiry based science teaching techniques (Inquiry Based Science Education - IBSE) as a basis for improving the way science is taught in schools.
There have been many efforts focused on introducing IBSE at European level during the past years. From pioneering initiatives such as the Pollen project, which was implemented in 12 cities in Europe and provided initial guidelines for the implementation of IBSE to PATHWAY project - a project funded by the EC to promote the effective widespread use of IBSE in primary and secondary schools in Europe, which was implemented in 13 countries and has managed to offer professional development courses to more than 10,000 science teachers and the on-going large scale initiative called Inspiring Science Education that is developing a repository of tools and online labs to facilitate the introduction of IBSE in school classrooms across European countries.
Conceptualization and establishment of ESEA
A workshop organized by the European Physical Society (EPS) was held in 2013 (Crete, Greece) where several science education stakeholders discussed the aforementioned issues and strengthened the importance of promoting IBSE techniques and the importance of collecting the results of projects like PATHWAY to develop effective training programmes. This meeting laid the foundations for establishing a European education platform lead by education stakeholders, the European Science Education Academy.
The aim of the European Science Education Academy is to set the pathway toward a standard-based approach to teaching science by inquiry, to disseminate methods and exemplary cases of both effective introduction of inquiry to science classrooms and professional development programmes, to support the adoption of inquiry based teaching by demonstrating ways to reduce the constraints presented by teachers and school organisation and finally to deliver a set of guidelines for the educational community to further explore and exploit the unique benefits of the proposed approach in science teaching.