Working with more than 5,000 schools across Europe in the framework of numerous European initiatives and Policy Support Actions (e.g. Inspiring Science Education, Go-Lab, Pathway, Ark of Inquiry, RRI Tools, UDLnet) over the last five years has proven that a school that effectively introduces innovations in education is an engaging environment not only for the students and teachers. Progressively it brings families, community groups, local businesses, international experts, universities, and other stakeholders into what we term an “Open School”.
An Open School culture imports external ideas that challenge internal views and beliefs and, in turn, exports its students – and their assets – to the community it serves. Such an engaging environment makes a vital contribution to its community: student projects meet real needs in the community outside of school, they are presented publicly, and draw upon local expertise and experience. The school environment fosters learner independence – and interdependence – through collaboration, mentoring, and through providing opportunities for learners to understand and interrogate their place in the world. An Open School Culture recognises the important part that students can play as peer enquirers / researchers, and welcomes their active involvement.
There are, however, no quick fixes in the world of education. Instead, education policy makers must support and commit to the laborious task of incrementally improving the competences of the teachers we train and the environment in which they teach, whilst providing teachers with a respect and trust commensurate according their critical societal roles. In this evolutionary context, the consolidation of “good practice” looks for a bottom-up approach to setting the grassroots for new school learning innovations and, at the same time, for an effective approach to holistic policy-making, in order to reach the right balance with top-down planning, thus meeting the challenges for emerging paradigms concerning access to learning, the creation and sharing of knowledge and the building of competences in learning communities. According to the “Science Education for Responsible Citizenship” Report (EC, 2015) there are a series of ways in which science education can help European countries to equip citizens, enterprise and industry with the skills and competences needed to provide sustainable and competitive solutions to the current and future challenges.