The fall in students taking up classical science and engineering subjects presents a real problem for organisations like ESA. In response to this, ESA's Education Office created the European Space Education Resource Office (ESERO) project. This project uses European space exploration as a means of exciting young people about Science, Engineering and Technology (SET).
Promotion of Science, Engineering and Technology in Europe
Europe has experienced a dramatic decline in the number of young people taking SET subjects in school and the uptake of careers in the same fields. The recent interest in applied sciences such as Information and Communications Technology (ICT) and Biotechnology has not been enough to offset the fall, especially among European women.
With the current European SET population ageing, a lack of talent to replace them could have wide-ranging and serious consequences. A shortage of young people going to university to read these subjects adversely affects the SET industry and employment markets. If the level of those qualified and literate in SET subjects drops to a critical level, the whole future of the European knowledge-based society and economy could be at stake.
These consequences will hit organisations such as ESA and its contractors hardest, removing the ability to innovate by lowering the quantity of high-calibre scientists and engineers available.
The Concept of ESERO
The ESERO office provides a direct link between ESA and the education community (students and educators). This allows ESA to support the education community with information, materials and activities geared towards science, engineering and space exploration.
There are problems with attempting to provide this kind of support: reaching the millions of students and educators throughout Europe is an impossible task for ESA. In addition, there are all the different languages, as well as unique education systems in each Member State.
Member State by Member State Approach
ESA decided to pursue a Member State by Member State approach, which allows this kind of support to be given while effectively dealing each of the difficulties listed above. ESA set up the ESERO offices at premises already known for science and is attractive to student, teachers and the general public.
Each ESERO office is manned by an expert, well integrated into the local education system and networks. This allows ESA Education to support the individual needs of the Member State, while simultaneously having access to those national networks of publishers, museums, teachers associations etc.
The primary function of the ESERO office is to create and grow enthusiasm and excitement for European space exploration among students and inspire the next generation to pursue SET careers.
The ESERO office also fosters close ties to education stakeholders and tailor activities specifically to the students of the Member State. It promotes science and engineering careers in the EU space sector and provides support for the delivery of national curricula.
Implementation of ESERO
The first ESERO contract was signed in The Netherlands in late 2005 with NEMO (the National Science and Technology Centre) in Amsterdam.
There are now 5 offices up and running namely in Belgium, Ireland, the Netherlands, Norway and UK.