Our visit to Science Foundation Ireland http://www.sfi.ie was only created fifteen years ago to be their national funding agency for scientific research and engaging the public around science, technology, engineering and math (STEM). Yet it has quickly become a key partner in promoting the use of ICT in learning. Similar to the U.S.’s National Science Foundation, SFI plays a key role in supporting key pilot initiatives to encourage youth to be interested in STEM and especially STEM related careers.
According to Margie McCarthy, Head of Education and Public Engagement, Strategy and Communications, the Department for Education & Skills (the ministry of education) is the lead on STEM in school, but SFI works on ancillary strategies related to youth and the public, such as supporting student coding efforts, maker movement, Science Week and highlights career options in STEM initiatives.
The Smart Futures http://www.SmartFutures.ie or http://www.Steps.ie is a government-industry program that highlights STEM careers by bringing in role models. For example, the focus on science brings gamers, food science experts and medical device developers to speak at schools on their careers and what skills and knowledge they need to succeed. Similar efforts are done for careers in math, technology and engineering.
Likewise, SFI has invested in the ExcitED.ie initiative which does both initiatives throughout the year and an annual conference focused on sparking innovation with technology, especially focused on the maker movement and coding. I had the pleasure of speaking at the 2014 ExcitED conference and seeing the bubble up enthusiasm of students and teachers. We will be hearing more about that strategy later this week.
The take-away message, which is well known in the U.S., is that the research and informal science/research agencies, as well as industry are key partners in reaching students about the value of STEM to their readiness for college and career.