Stronger cooperation between primary, secondary and VET schools and tertiary education and research to increase the number of pupils enrolling in digital studies aiming at gender convergence. This will lead to the development of:
– Summer schools
– Specialised information and career days
– Dissemination and outreach activities, such as EU Code Week
Students in digital and ICT disciplines represent a minority, in 2021 they were 4.5% of total graduates. There is also a severe gender balance issue, with only 19% of ICT specialists and one in three science, technology, engineering and/or mathematics (STEM) graduates being women. During the Structured Dialogue for digital education and skills, Member States also report about competition for the few pupils that have suitable profiles and interest in studying STEM disciplines at university level.
In order to fill the significant shortage of sector specialists using advanced digital technologies and ICT specialists, it is necessary to increase the pool of pupils who would be ultimately interested to study STEM and ICT, with a special focus on girls and women who are vastly underrepresented in the digital field. Boosting the development of digital skills from an early age and in a continuous manner is essential for influencing the level of digital skills of the EU population and the number of male and female students that will consider studies and career in the ICT. Moreover, evidence shows that pupils who are involved in the learning of coding or computational thinking from an early age are more likely to continue studying ICT or digital-related fields and this has an impact for example on the number of girls choosing this study-path.
In the bilateral dialogues with Member States as part of the structured dialogue on digital education and skills, many called for innovative approaches to attract young people, and especially girls as of primary school (or even earlier), to digital careers and to encourage a mind-set shift in their perception. This action will therefore include dedicated activities to encourage girls and women to take part in digital studies.
The aim of this action is to pilot actions to increase the number of students pursuing digital studies and careers, with a special focus on increasing participation of girls. It will support joint actions between leading technical higher education institutions, businesses and schools to promote digital studies, through hands-on activities and challenge-based projects. Another aim of this action is to scale-up the EU Code Week initiative, putting it on stronger and broader footing, thus further increasing its impact beyond the > 4 million people reached every year, among which almost half are young women and girls.
For example, the actions will finance summer schools for high-school students on digital areas, career days for people interested in digital, with a view to encourage more gender diversity and promote exchanges between higher education institutions and primary and secondary schools on digital topics. Digital Europe Programme consortia already awarded under the first WP could also be leveraged, with a view to give the possibilities to younger students to access the state-of-the-art laboratories, experience the campus facilities and follow seminars from the most renowned experts in Quantum computing, Cybersecurity, AI, cloud, among others. Special attention should be given to the role of girls and women in the digital field, with a focus on debunking stereotypes and tackling the self-efficacy and confidence gap.
This action is in line with Action 13 of the Digital Education Action Plan (2021-2027), which aims to enhance girls and women’s digital competences through projects like Girls Go Circular and ESTEAM Fests.