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Science demands: Strengthen STEM education!

Because of their great social importance, the STEM subjects need more weight in all areas of education. This is emphasized by scientists of the Leibniz Education Research Network (LERN) in a current position paper on the occasion of the Education Policy Forum organized by LERN today. According to the paper, good STEM education secures innovation and prosperity and helps to meet global challenges such as the energy transition, climate change and pandemic control. The statement focuses on proposals for overcoming the current deficits in these subjects.

There is general consensus that successful educational processes in mathematics, computer science, the natural sciences and technology (the so-called STEM fields) are a necessary prerequisite for individual and social development. However, there are still challenges in STEM education that urgently need to be addressed. For example, school leavers are not sufficiently qualified for training in the STEM field and the proportion of women in STEM courses of study is still too low.

The authors of the position paper, which includes concrete proposals for improving STEM education and will be published on the occasion of the Education Policy Forum, see the greatest challenges in elementary and primary education, in the digital transformation, in recruiting trainees for STEM professions, and in higher education:


  1. Elementary and primary education
    In the elementary sector, mathematics and science education curricula should be given greater weight. Good early childhood education programs stand and fall with the high quality of the facilities and, above all, the staff, as well as the range of mathematics and science learning opportunities in the facilities. The training and continuing education of educational specialists should be further improved and preschool support in the area of mathematics significantly strengthened. More intensive diagnostics and support are needed at the elementary school level to ensure that learning can continue at the lower secondary level.
  2. Strengthening digital skills
    As a result of the digital transformation, there is an urgent need to broaden educational objectives and strengthen informatics competencies. This also includes further professionalization of educational staff. The group of authors of the position paper makes it clear that building digital competence in schools is not only the task of the subject of computer science, but of all subjects. In order to ensure this, the researchers consider a qualification offensive for teachers to be necessary. Furthermore, educational institutions need sustainable digital infrastructures.
  3. Attracting people to STEM occupations
    The great social importance of STEM subjects and their apprenticeships should be better communicated. It is still necessary to qualify more young people for STEM training. Many apprenticeships remain unfilled because young people who do not have the necessary qualifications apply. In general education schools, further efforts must be made to drastically reduce the proportion of students who belong to the so-called risk group. This includes those whose competencies in mathematics and science do not exceed the level required in elementary school. Furthermore, research should be systematically promoted to increase knowledge about conditions for success. These empirically proven findings can form the basis for model programs. In addition, the proportion of women in STEM professions remains too low. More research is needed on how a needed culture change in organizations can lead to the dismantling of gender stereotypes.
  4. Strengthen STEM education in universities
     Currently, the proportion of students in STEM subjects is declining. This development needs to be addressed. Digital offerings in university teaching that allow for more individualized learning should be expanded, and international students should have easier access to German universities. The frequency of students dropping out is higher than average in STEM subjects. As a rule, this high number of dropouts is due to performance problems. Here, universities are called upon to expand their existing support services for students. Targeted measures to increase the proportion of women in STEM degree programs must be maintained and expanded.

The coordination office of the LERN research network is located at the DIPF | Leibniz Institute for Research and Information in Education. LERN brings together researchers from educational science, didactics, linguistics, cultural studies, media studies, neuroscience, economics, political science, psychology, sociology, information science and computer science from 25 institutions. The goal of the network is to bundle expertise and to increase the visibility of the Leibniz Association in educational issues among political decision-makers, educational administrators and the general public. The network wants to contribute to a better development of the potentials of education and for education and to find starting points for sustainable concepts and promising reforms on an individual, institutional and societal level.

The complete position paper with all proposed measures is available here:


Many institutions of the LERN research network are dedicated to STEM education processes across the lifespan in their research and development work. An overview of the most important projects can be downloaded here:


Responsible for the content of the Education Policy Forum 2021 and the position paper:

IPN | Leibniz Institute for Science and Mathematics Education
DZHW | German Centre for Higher Education Research and Science Studies
LIfBi | Leibniz Institute for Educational Trajectories
Universität Luxemburg


Speaker Group of the Leibniz Education Research Network: (LERN):

Prof. Dr. Ulrike Cress, IWM – Leibniz-Institut für Wissensmedien
Prof. Dr. Marcus Hasselhorn, DIPF | Leibniz Institute for Research and Information in Education
Prof. Dr. Olaf Köller, IPN | Leibniz Institute for Science and Mathematics Education
Prof. Dr. Heike Solga, WZB | Berlin Social Science Center
Prof. Dr. Katharina Spieß, DIW | German Institute for Economic Research

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