Europe and beyond

The global dimension of Perform

by Casimiro Vizzini & Alex Da Silva – UNESCO

Education should not be seen just as a tool to respond to external demands, but it must also be considered as a proactive stakeholder influencing social, economic and cultural change. In order to meet this challenge, educational innovations play a key role in anticipating responses to emerging problems and offering new solutions to unresolved issues.
The concept of ‘Science for All’ was widely accepted as an urgent educational priority in 1983 (UNESCO, 1983) and it remains a priority because science and technology continue to affect our everyday lives in so many different ways.

Over the past two decades, reports have shown oscillating rates of interest in STEM careers among secondary school students in Europe and other regions. The beginning of the millennium was marked by a strong and continuing decline in students’ involvement in STEM-related fields, claimed to be a consequence of an inefficient communication and transmission of the real meaning and global necessity of becoming a scientist. In recent years, different publications suggest that although the number of students interested in science and technology started to escalate, it is common to see how this interest is rapidly lost as soon as they get involved in their subjects after finding a gap between their initial expectations and the actual characteristics of the STEM study they had enrolled in. Also, a considerable percentage of young students perceive scientific and technological fields as boring or difficult, and they do not believe that they have the required skills to deal with these subjects. This feeling is more intense in girls than in boys and the gap between male and female students pursuing a college major or career in STEM is becoming steadily larger.
In order to face this pessimistic state concerning STEM careers, effective promotion and communication should be encouraged to show students the amount of professions and pathways requiring STEM knowledge and skills. For this, innovation is needed in schools’ curricula. Students need to be approached in a different way so that they modify their perception of STEM-related fields, convincing themselves of enrolling in them.
PERFORM, as a Horizon2020 funded project, aims to investigate the effects of the use of innovative science education methods based on performing arts in fostering young peoples’ motivations and engagement with STEM in selected secondary schools in France, Spain and the United Kingdom. Emphasizing Responsible Research and Innovation (RRI) values, PERFORM targets to train Europe’s future generations with key competences in science education needed for the social development and inclusion of European citizens, paying special attention to gender equality and participation in STEM-related fields, as well as the humanitarian and responsible uses of scientific knowledge. The RRI approach that guides Horizon2020 is perceived as one of PERFORM’s major pathos, acting as an intra and transdisciplinary tool to bring young students and experienced professionals together in a non-conventional method.
PERFORM project looks to move beyond merely increasing scientific and technological knowledge to developing a reflective knowledge of science in which young people can consider its purposes, values, and how it becomes reality. Learning science involves a perception restructuring and, through this, young people might come into new relationships with the subject, and perhaps themselves, in establishing their identity. To these ends scientific researchers, performers and young people have to work together in schools for developing performance-based activities. It is expected that this collaboration will increase young people engagement with science, its values and the processes of research.