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Promoting positive images of SET in young people

Final Report Summary - MOTIVATION (Promoting positive images of SET in young people)

MOTIVATION has focussed on different socialisation agents and their influence on young people's job decisions, and on initiatives to change images of science, engineering and technology (SET). On basis of several empirical methods for finding answers, the exchange with experts was another approach. Results show for media that more diverse and realistic job images should be integrated in youth media like magazines and soap operas. To change the situation editors and producers should look for industries' and universities' support. Essential is that they meet the teenager's interests in SET presentation as relevant topics for the audience. We live in a technological society; therefore it is not very difficult to find technological examples of our everyday's lives.

Thinking of social and ethical impacts of SET and environmental issues is just the beginning of changing things. Female SET related role models should be created to reduce gender stereotypes. Youth media should be aware of their influence on perpetuating stereotypical gender knowledge. So, why not creating a female character, combining being smart with earning a good salary with her SET job and having a happy private life? Of course she has small challenges in her job and of course there is plenty of room for some solvable problems in a normal happy life as well.

Looking at school pupils' motivation is essential. In the project we found that liking a subject does not automatically mean to choose it as a major. Initiatives aiming at making SET attractive and fun are not enough. An attractive curriculum would make pupils like science lessons more, but that does not mean that they would choose science for further studies. On the other hand when pupils choose SET as a gate to something else, with no interest in the discipline in many cases, they don't like it. For average or weak pupils in SET this creates the image of SET as 'too difficult for me'. When sciences are disciplines as other disciplines, with no special status or even a status of optional discipline, they stimulate a more truthful interest for science. Following SET subjects not necessarily indicates 'being interested' in SET, or 'wanting a career in SET'. Presently, it may very well be that governmental measures to increase the numbers of pupils in SET subjects in these countries only increase the high status (and possibly low liking) of these subjects.

Further the role of teachers is important: Teachers training is necessary especially for rising gender awareness and further their pedagogy. For pupils, the influence of teachers is huge. They serve as role models for SET jobs and their teaching skills influence positively or negatively students' perceptions of the discipline. There is very poor gender awareness among teachers that has to be changed by training.

Family roles have to be changed to non-traditional pattern. Family relations seem to be mostly traditional in all countries with Slovakia being a big exception. Similar traditional roles exist for the children, like boys helping their father with technical repairing things and tasks and girls helping in the household.

Initiatives for appealing young people to SET should start at an early age, continue and adapt to the changing age and interests. Organisers should ensure safe funding for years ahead including funding for evaluation. Late teenagers may demand other kinds of activities like creating inventions, for example visiting and working in academic SET environment, and/or having mentors. Initiatives and projects should establish a network with other initiatives for different age groups and at the same time foster cooperation with academic and also non-academic institutions and companies. For project survival an approval of the initiative among important persons and organisations in politics, university and industry is important.

Further research in this field should focus on media effects of SET presentation on teenagers' gendered attitudes and choices. How can SET curricula be constructed between contextualised science and pedagogy which transits from 'easy' hands-on science to advanced levels? There is a big impact of the discipline status on the image of SET. The challenge is to find a good balance between a science curriculum, which is not an option or a secondary discipline, and an elitist approach of sciences, where science is more theoretically presented with the risk that it makes students disliking sciences. Too many inclusion initiatives and projects are not properly evaluated - here a huge research gap is visible. Reasons for lacking evaluation and discussing appropriate and useful evaluation methods should be focused.