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EACEA National Policies Platform


6. Education and Training

6.7 Skills for innovation

Last update: 22 January 2021

LAST MODIFIED ON: 25/10/2020 - 23:14

On this page
  1. Innovation in formal education
  2. Fostering innovation through non-formal and informal learning and youth work

Innovation in formal education

School curriculum

Skills that support innovation are not explicitly part of the Northern Ireland curriculum, though it emphasises the development of pupils’ skills and capabilities for lifelong learning and participating in society. By engaging pupils in active learning contexts across all areas of the curriculum, teachers can develop pupils’:

  • personal and interpersonal skills
  • capabilities and dispositions
  • ability to think both creatively and critically.

At  Key Stage 4 (14-16) of compulsory post-primary education, schools must make provision for such ‘Thinking Skills and Personal Capabilities’. 

Guidance on Teaching, Learning and Assessment at Key Stage 4 gives as one of the Characteristics of Quality Teaching and Learning in the Classroom that teachers ‘enable pupils to develop their capacity for critical thinking and problem solving’.

Beyond this, in post-compulsory upper secondary education, when students are aged 16-18/19, formal education is characterised by subject choice and is qualification-led. The development of the type of competences which foster innovation, is therefore, something which varies according to the individual choices made.

Teacher competencies

Professional competencies for teachers are set out in Teaching: the Reflective Profession. This document makes specific reference to the importance of creativity in education, both in pedagogy and as a theme which underpins the learning experiences of pupils. It states that the competences have been designed:

to enhance professional autonomy, both at an individual and collective level, in a way that encourages creative and innovative approaches to teaching and which, in turn, develops in pupils the ability to think creatively. Indeed, the ability to think creatively, and the innovation it encourages, is central to any modern education system that strives to enhance the life chances of children and young people.

Further information

There are overlaps in the types of skills supporting innovation and those supporting both entrepreneurship and creativity. See the article on 'Development of Entrepreneurship Competence' and the section 'Acquiring cultural and creative competences through education and training' in the article 'Developing Cultural and Creative Competences', respectively, for information on these.

See also the Eurydice Network’s education system descriptions for::

Teaching and Learning in General Lower Secondary Education

Organisation of Vocational Upper Secondary Education


Fostering innovation through non-formal and informal learning and youth work

The National STEM (science, technology, engineering and mathematics) Learning Network is a joint initiative by the Department for Education in England and the Wellcome Trust. The initiative, which is UK-wide, was set up in direct response to concerns about the engagement of young people in science. Among the programmes and projects run by the network, is the STEM Ambassadors programme. STEM Ambassadors are volunteers from a wide range of STEM related jobs and disciplines. As well as working with schools and colleges across the UK, the network works with youth and community groups and others to ensure they have access to STEM Ambassadors to engage young people with STEM subjects outside the classroom.With the support of Government funding, this programme is offered free of charge to education providers and youth and community organisations. W5 is the organisation responsible for the local management of the STEM Ambassadors scheme in Northern Ireland.

British Science Week is an annual programme of STEM events and activities across the UK for people of all ages. It is run by the British Science Association (BSA). British Science Week supports any type of organiser, including youth and community groups and will help organisers to plan events by providing a range of free activity and support resources.

BSA is also running a new extra-curricular initiative since 2017 for young people aged 11-to-19 to come up with innovative solutions that have the potential to change the world in global health and development issues.The initiative, Youth Grand Challenges, links with BSA’s CREST Awards programme which is the only nationally recognised accreditation scheme for young people’s project work in STEM subjects. The awards are offered at six levels and are for 5- to 19-year-olds. CREST gives young people the chance to participate in hands-on science through investigations and enquiry-based learning. The programme can be run in schools, clubs, youth groups, other organisations or at home.