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Contribution to the guidelines regarding the content of a new strategy to attract and encourage female students to careers in set/technologyContribution to a new strategy to attract and encourage female
students to careers in SET/technology
Germany, Partner 8, University of Koblenz-Landau / Ada-Lovelace-Projekt Background
(Short summary of WP 5 results of Partner 8 / Germany)
Already primary school (in Germany: 6 to 10 years old) seems to be an important phase for the development of technical and mathematical interests. At this early age, gender differences become obvious as young girls in general show lower interest in mathematics and a lower self-efficacy in science and technology. This result of a lower self-efficacy on technological activities of young girls is approved by a study of Endepohls-Ulpe et al. (2008) with 235 primary school children (result of WP 3) The furthering of technical interests and interest in science and computing at the early age in primary school comes from the family, but not from school. Technical experiences in school are rare and do not influence later decisions for technical studies in a positive way. Results of an interview study with 45 teachers in primary school at Rhineland-Palatinate actually reveal that technology as a topic is not given much attention to in primary school (Endepohls-Ulpe et al. 2008) (result of WP 3). Looking at the family background of primary school children, the support from the mother for learning technology and science seems to be much more important for female students than for male students. The father, too, had an impressive influence especially on female engineering students during primary school, when they were ambitious to solve mathematical and technical assignments. The later female engineering students can as a child be characterized as ambitious girls with a relatively high interest in mathematics at school and a high self-efficacy in natural science, technology and mathematics. This is contrasting with the low self-efficacy in science and technology of the later female non-engineering students. The engineering students considered difficult technical and mathematical assignments as being a challenge and loved solving them. In contrast to their male colleagues (male engineering students) they didn’t have that much practical-based interest in technology like playing with technical toys, planning, constructing and doing experiments. In the phase of deciding for a certain course of study the significance of supporting important relevant others can be noticed. It is mainly female family members and female peers who motivate the young female engineering students.
As the results of the “characteristics of an ideal engineer” and the occupational image of an engineer show, young female engineering students have a highly progressive occupational image of an “ideal engineer” (e.g. concerning the required social and managerial competences). At the same time they are also quite optimistic about combining family and work. The results on experiences in current lectures and on the expectations for the engineering job show that a discrimination of female engineers is seen by both, male and female engineering students. This discrimination refers to difficulties in getting a (high-payed) job and in balancing the career and the family in technology. Female engineering students obviously see some fields of engineering which are better to go for and to be successful as a woman. This may be interpreted as a perceived restriction in their occupational choice, or as a motivating chance for women to successfully stand their ground as an engineer in the job market. Therefore, it could be seen as a possibility to motivate young women for engineering studies when they are increasingly shown those fields of engineering where female engineers work successful y.
A very obvious barrier in accessing technical studies can be seen in various parts of the questionnaire study: girls and young women have a significantly lower interest in and self-confidence regarding computer sciences. This even applies to young female engineering students who otherwise assess their technical competences as higher than e.g. the male pedagogical students. The interest in computer sciences as a motivating factor to take up an engineering course of study is significantly lower among female engineering students than among their male fellow students. The female pedagogical students also assessed computer sciences as a significantly higher obstacle to choose engineering studies than their male fellow students. One result that could be extracted chiefly from the German interviews is that the young women who had dropped out of their physics studies had run aground mainly on their own high performance standards. Young men in particular enrol for second-chance education more often than young women and after having completed an apprenticeship they start studying at a university of applied sciences and become an engineer.
The structure of the proposed new strategy
Proposed new curricula – for every educational cycle
The natural curiosity that children show for nature and their physical and social environment in kindergarten and primary school should definitely be used to make it possible to gain positive (learning) experiences in handling technology already at an early age. New concepts and offers should start already at this age! The imparting of technical knowledge and technical skills is not the only aim in developing new curricula. The strengthening of technical self-efficacy should be at least equally important. This applies to boys and girls at the same time, but particularly to girls from primary school on, since already here a weakened confidence in their own technical skil s can be observed. Such a furthering of technical self-efficacy must not end with primary school; rather contrary, computer/ICT courses should be established as a compulsory subject in secondary school.
From a didactic viewpoint it is important that the children can gain practical experience when dealing with technical questions. They should experiment and construct themselves and be al owed to approach tasks creatively.
In order to specifical y address the girls and strengthen their technical self-efficacy, it is absolutely necessary to align the new curricula to the interests and work styles of the girls. According to experience, the female pupils’ focus of interest is on the areas of nature, man, and his environment, which was also confirmed by the results of the German questionnaire study. In the interest of a lasting motivation and furthering of the girls’ (and boys’) competence in technology, offers should take place over a period of several weeks, ideal y integrated into the “normal” lessons. Currently, there are more and more opportunities to integrate corresponding “activity and work groups” into the range of subjects of schools. This is due to the increased setting up of full-time day schools in Germany. However, as a medium- term plan it is desirable to integrate technology lessons into all the different types of school and for all the school career. With taking up their studies on engineering or ICT, the young women should get support at their universities so that they would not run aground on their own performance standards and drop out of their courses too soon. Here, mentoring programmes make sense, such as the ones the Ada-Lovelace-Project offers to female students in their first semesters (www.studentinnen/ada-lovelace.com).
Proposed changes in teacher's training and updating (according to the educational
cycle he/she is involved in)
Results from WP 3 of the team from the University of Koblenz-Landau show that technical topics are hardly dealt with in primary school. This might be due to the fact that teachers are not feeling technically competent themselves and got only little ideas for a motivating and gender-equal technology teaching during their studies. Therefore, the technical competence of the teachers, especially the female teachers, has to be improved. The training at university should already have corresponding contents as a compulsory subject, in particular computer courses (software and hardware).
Gender-specific approaches to technical issues, and methods how to attract girls to technology should also be integrated into the training of the future teachers. There should be corresponding further training for teachers who are already at school and this training should be compulsory.
Since it is necessary in secondary school to have more technology classes with special furthering of the female pupils so as to build technical self-efficacy and maintain it, it is absolutely recommendable to have further teacher training here as well.
Training sessions for parents in order to better observe the non-biased gender
practices in child rearing
Corresponding to the enormous significance that the parents have in developing and supporting technical interests and competences during their children’s time in primary school, they should be increasingly involved in the technical education of their children. It is conceivable to have parents-and-child courses, which motivate the parents and their children, and which give the parents ideas on how to explore natural phenomena and solve technical problems with their children in a way that they would understand. Tutors should also clearly show the parents the importance of the development of technical education in early childhood. Other than that, the parents have a crucial function as a role model for the development of technical competences, especial y the mothers for their daughters. The parents could be made aware of this aspect in such courses, and encouraged to act accordingly. Conclusions and Expected Outcomes
According to the results of the team from Koblenz-Landau University, it is important that children, especially girls, are being introduced to technical issues already in kindergarten and primary school. They are to be encouraged to deal with technical topics. The offers and demands should be chosen in such a way as to let the girls experience their competence. The parents’ and teachers’ appreciation of the technical competence should at all costs be raised, especially for girls. The aim of this furthering of competence, experiencing of competence and raised appreciation is to maintain technical interests and self-confidence of the girls in the course of their development, which necessarily also includes the acquisition of gender stereotypes.
Here, technical y competent educators (parents and teachers) who give affirmation to the girls for their technical competences are indispensable Extracurricular offers, such as e.g. the Ada-Lovelace Project can be very helpful in addition and should be supported by the economy and politicians. RECOMMENDATIONS FOR DECISION MAKERS AT NATIONAL AND
• Missing parental support and offers at school should be made up for by extracurricular add-on offers – especially for girls. • Parents-and-child technical courses should be established in kindergarten and in • Teachers of all levels of education should receive technical training themselves, foremost however female teachers because of their function as role models. Training with computers should be made compulsory within the teacher’s training. • Technology classes and classes on computer usage should be made compulsory • The choice of subjects in secondary school should be restricted in so far that the pupils are not allowed to choose only subjects that conform to their gender stereotype. • During the period of choosing a degree course, female role models from the field of technology should be presented to the female pupils. This happens successfully e.g. at the Ada-Locelace Project.
• The course offer in engineering at German universities should be reconsidered: socioscientific contents should be integrated more, and degree courses which attract women stronger should be established (e.g. medical engineering and environment engineering). • During their studies the young women should receive support when they enter the studies and later when they enter the working world. The mentoring programmes of the Ada-Lovelace Project have already proven of value here. • The image of the engineering profession should be rectified through extensive publicity work so that the profession appears attractive also to young women. It should be made clear that social and communicative competences are also important in engineering. Here, especially the media and the professional associations should get active. • The working conditions of young women in engineering have to be improved since they are still worse than their male colleague’s conditions. These improvements have to be made public systematically. • The harmonisation of the family and the work life has to be improved substantial y for technical professions – in the interest of both sexes. • The chances of continuation education should be made clearer to young women and they should be motivated to study at a university of applied sciences after having completed an apprenticeship. References:
Endepohls-Ulpe, M., Ebach, J. & von Zabern, J., 2008. Technology Education in German Primary Schools – Possibilities and Barriers. Paper presented at the International Conference on the efficiency and equity of education. Université Rennes 2, 19th, 20th and 21th of November 2008.
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