The Government approved on Tuesday the formation of an inter-ministerial working group to elaborate the STEMcat Plan encouraging education in science, technology, engineering and mathematics. The Agreement states that the working group must draw up the plan and have it incorporated in the Catalan educational system by the start of the 2017-2018 academic year.
The agreement is part of the SmartCAT strategy launched by the Catalan Government, which has been recently bolstered with the inclusion of four new priority areas, notable among these is the implementation of a program to promote technological aptitudes among young people, especially girls.
According to the recently approved agreement, the STEMcat working group will prepare a plan to boost these vocations while enhancing teachers’ training in these fields; fostering scientific, technology and mathematics among students in compulsory education while developing procedures for its evaluation; encouraging the participation of companies in schools, and promoting science, technology, engineering and mathematics in society, with particular emphasis on activities aimed at the educational community.
This working group will be assigned to the Ministry of Education and will be made up of representatives from the Secretariat of Telecommunications, Cyber-security and Digital Society (Ministry of the Presidency); the Secretariat of Educational Policy (Ministry of Education); the secretariats of Universities and Research, and Enterprise and Competitiveness (Ministry of Business and Knowledge), and in conjunction with the universities of Catalonia.
A Plan to Guarantee Opportunities
Studies by various international organizations suggest that there is an imbalance between the demand of qualified professionals in the fields of science, technology, engineering and mathematics (STEM education), and qualified individuals in these fields. This situation is more pronounced when looked at from the gender perspective, as women, despite having a higher rate of enrolment than their male counterparts, are less present in these academic fields at a university level.
This imbalance is already causing a failure in terms of filling the number of jobs available in the Catalan tech industry. If the trend continues, the opportunity to cover and generate the proportional number of new ICT jobs expected in Europe in the coming years will eventually be missed.
The creation of the STEMcat Plan, along with other programs already in place, such as mSchools, bitbot.cat, donaTIC.cat, Ciència i Aula (Science and Classroom), Impulsem la robòtica (Fostering Robotics), Formació permanent del professorat en CTM (Teacher’s Training in Science, Technology and Mathematics), are in compliance with the specific educational policy objectives included in this legislature’s Government Plan. These objectives are also found in various articles of the Catalan Statute of Autonomy regarding the obligation of public authorities to promote policies for the emancipation of young people and their equal access to the job market. The plan is also part of the guiding principles of the Education Act, which include cultural, scientific and technological training, which allows students to fully integrate into the labour market with the specific competences for an independent and creative use of digital systems.
In addition, the STEMcat Plan responds to the Resolution from October 5th 2016, passed by the Parliament of Catalonia, which urges Government to make the necessary steps to ensure all students achieve the basic skills in primary education -not just to be consumers but also creators of technological solutions in the digital society. At this stage, digital competence must therefore be developed in the students’ skillset.
In this regard, the resolution proposes that programming and educational robotics be present in school curricula during the first years of compulsory education. The resolution also urges the Government to launch specific initiatives promoting and enriching the range of extracurricular activities to promote and develop advanced digital skills, such as programming, creative robotics and digital technologies. Overall, the STEMcat Plan is another step forward in the Catalan Government’s commitment to incorporate activities such as these in both the school curricula as well as in the educational community.