European STEM label

Offering STEM education at an international top level. With this ambition, five secondary schools from Antwerp and Waasland joined the pilot project in2stem of voka – chamber of commerce antwerp-waasland. Via a coaching trajectory of the chamber and with the support of 21 large industrial companies, the five schools have recently became the first in Belgium to obtain the EU STEM school label. These schools are the GO! Atheneum and the stedelijk lyceum campus Hardenvoort from Antwerp, the spectrum school from Deurne, don bosco from Hoboken and the brother schools hieronymus from Stekene.
– By Pieter Leuridan, Kathleen Rabau

IN2STEM’s main objective is to increase the influx of high-quality technical profiles into the industry. “It are the 21 companies of our industry platform that have taken the initiative for this project,’ explains Luc Luwel, delegate director of voka – chamber of commerce antwerp-waasland. “The industry in the Antwerp-Waasland region is among the world leaders in industrial enterprise. To maintain this position, it must be able to draw continuously on a large pool of top technical talent. To be able to do that, first and foremost, you need a STEM education of international top level. It did not have that guarantee yet.”

“The industry in the Antwerp-Waasland region belongs to the world’s top in industrial entrepreneurship. To maintain this position, it needs to be able to continuously draw on a large pool of top technical talent.”

In early 2019, a team from the Chamber searched for a programme with measurable criteria or a label that would allow schools to benchmark themselves internationally. The European EU STEM School Label combines both requirements and was therefore found to be the most suitable. Luc Luwel: “Schools are evaluated on the basis of 21 different criteria that they have to be able to substantiate in their files. This not only concerns the level of school infrastructure, but also, for example, cooperation with industry, the integration of digital forms of learning and communication, and the professionalisation of teachers.


Some 1,500 schools from Germany, Austria, Sweden, Israel and many other European countries have already been awarded the label. But until this project, there was not a single Belgian school among them. In June 2019, five ambitious school boards from Antwerp and Waasland were prepared to take up the challenge. “Over the past year, the Chamber has helped them gather evidence, find experts and support from the industry and practically submit the dossier. At the start of the project, it quickly became apparent that schools, like companies, like to exchange experiences and learn from each other” says Luc Luwel. “This peer-to-peer approach has ensured that, unlike other Flemish schools that had already made an attempt on their own but did not achieve the label, they did make it to the finish line. The corona measures have also ensured that they have accelerated the realisation of a number of criteria concerning the implementation of it-applications.”


Starting from September, the aim is to further upgrade the STEM training courses based on the 21 European criteria. The five schools share this ambition. “This project helps us to look at our familiar operation and school through a different lens. The STEM label nicely exposes the strengths and growth opportunities of our school”, says Tom Francken, technical advisor coordinator don bosco (picture 1). Karin Heremans (photo 2), director GO! Royal Athenaeum Antwerp: “the STEM label is an important step in the transition plan of our school. It guarantees to all those involved that our school actively pursues and applies STEM education in an inspiring and pioneering way. Thanks to this trajectory, we now know even better where our strengths and working points lie.”

“Through this intensive cooperation our school wants to bridge the gap with companies in terms of knowledge, professionalisation, methods and infrastructure. This way, we can perfectly prepare our students for the STEM jobs of tomorrow.”

We hear the same opinion in the brand new Campus Hardenvoort in Antwerp (photo 3). Teacher Wendy Haepers: “By cooperating intensively with Voka, we want to bridge the gap between the ASO school and companies in the field of knowledge, professionalisation, working methods and infrastructure.” Martin Corveleyn (photo 4), technical advisor at the Broederschool in Stekene, puts it as follows: “For a small rural school, the European STEM School label is an opportunity to share knowledge, gain inspiration from STEM schools all over Europe and thus to get our students excited about the scientific-technological world.” The spectrum school in Deurne (photo 5) hopes that this will give a boost to the image of technical education. “We believe in the importance and the future of education, both for programmes aimed at the labour market and for programmes leading to higher education. With this STEM label, we hope to attract more positive attention to this. We are also more convinced than ever to invest in our technical infrastructure”, says director Christine Hannes. Luc Luwel emphasises that this pilot project is the starting point for a general upgrade of STEM education in our region. “Over the past year, we have gained a great deal of expertise and fine-tuned the methodology for achieving this label. In addition, many large industrial companies are ready to advise and assist schools in this matter. Directors who feel called upon to follow this path may always contact us.”

The IN2STEM project can count on broad interest from the business world. The following industrial companies are already eager to participate or offer their support: actemium, aquafin, arlanxeo, atlas copco, basf, bilfinger rob, covestro, engie wkk zandvliet, exxon mobil, ineos, lanxess, maintenance partners, total (olefins & refinery), suez, air liquide, bayer crop science, electrabel doel, umicore and waterlink.