Under the Magnifying Glass: Easy-to-Ignore Groups and Outreach STEM Education – Part 2

Go there instead of overlooking – how previously unreached target groups can be reached with MINT offerings

The photo has a decorative function. It shows three children sitting at a table. The left covers its eyes, the middle covers its ears, the right covers its mouth. It says "Part 3" in the lower left corner.
Photo: Keren Fedida on Unsplash


Securing skilled workers in the STEM field is a key challenge. In order to master these, we have to inspire and qualify young people for STEM subjects. There is still a lot of untapped potential here. For example, children and young people who, for various reasons, have not yet found access to (MINT) educational opportunities.

We would like to take a closer look: Who are these groups of young people whose potential is (can) be easily overlooked? Which factors play a role? Which terms are used? And how do offers have to be tailored to reach this group(s)?

Im ersten Teil This article is intended to provide an approximation of the term "Easy-to-ignore groups(“Easily overlooked groups”) because it is also used for these groups that have so far hardly been reached through educational offerings. By this we mean in particular children and young people with different, challenging life situations and educational histories. We focus on MINT offerings and look at how and in which places these target group(s) can be reached. The second part of the article is about the role of the easy-to-ignore groups in the work of zdi.NRW: Who are the groups that we are not yet reaching with our MINT offerings and how can we change this? In the third part we show approaches and practical examples of how outreach MINT education can succeed in the zdi context and which steps will be necessary for this.

You can download the full text as a PDF here:

Which groups are currently often overlooked in the zdi context?

Easy-to-ignore groups are not homogeneous groups. Depending on the context, this can mean other people. In the zdi context, these are children and young people whose potential has not yet found access to extracurricular MINT education for a variety of reasons - from challenging life situations to individual educational history. The reasons for this can be individual or varied; they can lie in the person, in their environment, their other living conditions, also in school contexts or in the attractiveness or design of the offers. Typical examples are conditions in schools that are cooperation partners for zdi offers that are limited in terms of personnel or infrastructure, the traffic access to extracurricular learning locations, topics in the offers that are not attractive in terms of content, offers that are methodologically or pedagogically unsuitable, unsuitable forms of communication and much more. According to estimates, this group makes many Fields of action (including in MINT education) represent 40% to 95% of an age cohort.

Although thousands of young people are reached throughout NRW every year, a look at the zdi monitoring shows that the zdi networks maintain partnerships with grammar schools much more frequently than with primary, secondary or special schools. If you look at the offers of the networks, there is also a clear tendency towards offers for grammar schools and comprehensive schools.

Figures from the zdi community

The zdi networks maintain around 2.000 school partnerships (for the sake of completeness, this also includes day-care centers). It turns out that most of the partnerships are with grammar schools. Children from primary, secondary and special schools are less reached through this cooperation.

The graphic shows a bar chart showing the breakdown of the approximately 2.000 school sponsorships in percent: Kita 21,7%. Primary school 19,8%, secondary school 3,7%, secondary school 9,9%, high school 24,6%, comprehensive school 11,3%, vocational college 3,9%, special school 2,3%, secondary school 2,8%
Figures from zdi monitoring 2023.

At zdi.NRW, a distinction is made between two types of offers: offers within the "zdi-BSO-MINT" funding program and offers that run outside of this program. These are collected and analyzed in two separate monitoring sessions. Here, too, it can be seen in both cases that offers are aimed much more often at high school students and less often at secondary school students. (Note: The sum of the percentages is more than 100%, since an offer can be aimed at several types of school. The basic number of defined offers is around 1300.)

In a bar chart, the graphic shows the types of school to which the around 1.300 measures outside the zdi-BSO-MINT program are aimed: day-care centers 11,5%, primary school 31,8%, secondary school 13,6%, junior high school , 22,7%, high school 42,9%, comprehensive school 37,5%, vocational college 10,1%, special needs school 9,0%, secondary school 16,0%
Figures from zdi monitoring 2023.

The proportion of students from high schools who attend zdi-BSO-MINT courses exceeds the number of students from other types of school: The proportion of students who attend a type of school with a high school level is just over 76% here. .

In a bar chart, the graphic shows the sum of the students who attend zdi-BSO-MINT courses by type of school: Hauptschule 745, Ralschule 4.763, Gymnasium 16.567, Comprehensive school 8.570, Community school 89, Special needs school 564, Secondary school 1568
Figures from zdi monitoring 2023.

Whether a young person belongs to an “easy-to-overlook group” or not does not depend on the type of school they attend. However, the numbers show that we have so far reached less students from certain types of schools in the zdi context.

The aim of zdi.NRW is to win over young people from the large and heterogeneous easy-to-ignore group for extracurricular MINT education and to work out the conditions for success. A promising way to get there is the early and co-creative involvement of young people in the development and implementation of the programs and offers. One possible approach to this is outreach STEM education.

Outreach STEM education: How can we reach children and young people in their living environment?

In order to address the above-mentioned target group(s), the “outreach educational work” approach was developed. This term comes from educational and social work and aims to bring educational opportunities to people by "visiting" them in their familiar environment. In this concept, people do not have to approach educational institutions, but rather they come to them.

The educational offer is thus directly present in the living environment of the young people. The development of educational offers is co-creative, involves young people and thus offers the opportunity to respond to individual life situations. Active participation and the feeling of being heard can encourage sustained engagement.

This approach is defined as follows:

“[In outreach educational work] the classic come structure – the addressees come to the educational institutions – is supplemented by a go structure. In this way, proximity to life can be created, but above all, parent and family education can overcome access barriers to their traditional places of education through personal contact.” [1]

It is also emphasized: "Educational work must be linked to concrete life support in order to present a recognizable benefit that can be realized as quickly as possible and a meaningfulness for the target group."[2]

Note: This contribution represents a working status and not the conclusion of a discussion. Rather, it shows a level of development and an approach to certain terms and forms the basis for further steps in the MINT educational work of the zdi community with certain target groups.  

Revision January 2024: In exchange with the zdi community, we have decided to use the term “overlook” instead of “ignore” in German in the future. This makes it clearer that the easy-to-ignore groups are not intentionally “ignored”, but are more often “overlooked” due to structural deficits in our society. We have therefore revised the article in the relevant places.

Back to Part 1 - What does "Easy-to-ignore" mean and who are the young people we easily overlook?

Continue to Part 3 – Outreach STEM education in practice

If you have any questions about the topic or the offers in the area of ​​outreach MINT education/zdi-BSO-MINT-Lab, please contact:



Kerstin Helmerdig

Katharina Glowalla

Katharina Glowalla

[1] “Family education, primary school and milieu – an expertise as part of the project: Family education during primary school. Careful parenting 'five to eleven', published by the state working groups for family education in North Rhine-Westphalia, authors: Prof. Dr. Helmut Bremer and Dipl. Social Sciences. Mark Kleemann-Göhring, University of Duisburg, 2012: https://familienbildung-in-nrw.de/fileadmin/user_upload/Images/Content/fachkraefte/Familienbildung_Grundschule_Milieu.pdf (accessed on 25.07.2023)

[2] "Outreach educational work - more equal opportunities and participation", Adult Education Association Baden-Württemberg eV; https://www.vhs-bw.de/projekte/aufsuchende-bildungsarbeit/ (accessed on 25.07.2023)

[3] "Outreach educational work - more equal opportunities and participation", Adult Education Association Baden-Württemberg eV; https://www.vhs-bw.de/projekte/aufsuchende-bildungsarbeit/ (accessed on 19.07.2023)

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