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Partnerships for pathways to Higher Education and science engagement in Regional Clusters of Open Schooling

Periodic Reporting for period 1 - PHERECLOS (Partnerships for pathways to Higher Education and science engagement in Regional Clusters of Open Schooling)

Reporting period: 2019-10-01 to 2020-12-31

PHERECLOS builds upon the theory of science capital and the experience that Children’s Universities (CUs) have made in developing and promoting the Third Mission of universities. With their engagement with children and young people, notably in a STEAM context, they became intermediaries between various actors in the educational and social landscape. As translators of the concerns, messages and knowledge of other parties (incl. business and industry, the state, civic society organizations etc.) they help to dismantle institutional boundaries of universities towards a wider society. Within the PHERECLOS approach, the institutional learning that is generated from CUs as “agents of change” – also with particular focus on first generation students, social inclusion and gender issues – will be taken further. It shall enable schools to become hubs of the educational landscape in their nearby surrounding and shall foster the formation of innovative forms of collaboration between various knowledge providers at the overlapping edges of formal and non-formal education.

The project will establish six "Local Education Clusters" (LECs), which bring together schools and further relevant actors in education in six pilot regions. The LECs will be incubators for enabling a dialogue between various parties and help to set up joint activities in (formal and non-formal) education, which help to develop collaborative learning environments as experimental testbeds for schools. At the same time they impact on the quality of science engagement opportunities in STEAM in these areas. PHERECLOS will implement a digital “OpenBadge” ecosystem which labels institutions as reliable and responsive actors and showcases all LEC parties to become real change agents in education. At the same time, this ecosystem will testify individual achievements with respect to STEAM engagement in formal or non-formal settings or even unintended learning outcomes. The regional effectiveness and impact will be monitored by academic transfer and implementation research and lead to the development of implementation guidelines and policy briefs to enhance the sustainability of the overall approach. A targeted Transnational Education Mentoring Programme (TEMP), which is available for 10 partnerships between additional 40 organisations in the field of STEAM engagement, helps to leverage the impact, to expand the institutional learning and to pilot innovation in education.
Despite the limitations for the entire education sector due to the Covid-19 pandemic, PHERCLOS managed to achieve one of the most relevant milestones – which was the formation of the LECs and the agreement on joint workplans in the six model regions in October 2020. These workplans are comprehensive documents which specify the objectives, roles and responsibilities in each of the LEC consortia. In total, the six LEC consortia include ninety-two partner (92) organisations and a further total 373 organisations which are targeted by the LEC workplans, including schools. These numbers alone suggest that a notable impact in the six model regions can be achieved. There is already a significant level of awareness among competent institutions in the LEC areas which provide a profound basis for leveraging the LEC approaches in their particular environments and beyond.

The entire process was constantly informed by targeted tools and instruments, which were developed from the perspective of academic implementation research, like checklists and guidelines for the successful initiation and monitoring of change processes, as well as workshops, webinars and bilateral counselling. The same was provided from an advocacy perspective, which makes sure that all stakeholder positions (including teachers, school heads, teacher training students, parents and pupils) are properly addressed in the formation of the LECs. Supportive in this regard is a set of particular Briefing Papers which was developed and disseminated. Moreover, the entire process was informed by a compilation of 63 inspirational cases of practise, which have already proven efficient and impactful in Open Schooling. These 63 cases are now analysed further, but are already made available online as a relevant resource for the wider interested public on the project website.
A well concerted dissemination strategy has been developed right after beginning of the project, which includes a PHERECLOS website (www.phereclos.eu) as well as social media channels on Facebook (@PhereclosEU) and Twitter (@PhereclosE), which are maintained regularly. Directly integrated in the website is the “Mobilisation and Mutual Learning Platform” (MML-P), which has been set up and which is fully operational yet. Embedded in the MML-P is the PHERECLOS Open Badge ecosystem, which is also fully operational and based on common Open Badge standard (OBS).

The MML-P will serve as the central hub for internal and external community building – and for gathering a growing community of experts and practitioners in Open Schooling. This will also be supported by the OS Together initiative, of which the PHERECLOS consortium is co-founder. The proponents behind this initiative represent 9 projects linked to science education innovation and are located in 33 different countries. These projects are currently being funded under similar strands in H2020, in particular under the “Open Schooling” and the “Science Learning outside the Classroom” calls. Joining forces in this regard will definitely help the raise a maximum of awareness for the concerns of the involved projects and for the concerns of Open Schooling in General (@ostogether on Facebook and Twitter).
PHERECLOS promotes the territorial dimension of Local Education Clusters in all their manifold facets and their catalyzing role relating to access to STEAM and higher education, critical thinking and informed decision making in a wider societal context – including competitiveness and sustainable growth. This approach of Open Schooling will enable schools to become hubs of community well-being and to better respond to the current “learning crisis”, where more and more young people leave school without appropriate life skills.

In face of these challenges, the proponents of the PHERECLOS approach consider it as inevitably relevant to create ecosystems of education in order to pave “pathways to success” and to be more responsive both to societal needs on one hand and the demands of the innovation systems and labour market needs on the other – facilitated by an idea of social inclusion as a strategy to improve opportunities and impact in education to a diverse population.

In total, the six LEC consortia include ninety-two partner (92) organisations and a further total of 373 organisations which are targeted by the LEC workplans, including schools. These numbers alone suggest that a notable impact in the six model regions can be achieved. There is already a significant level of awareness among competent institutions in the LEC areas which provide a profound basis for leveraging the LEC approaches in their particular environments and beyond.
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