«HOPE – Horizons in Physics Education»: to unite to make physics more attractive

From the 20 to 22 of November in The University of Dublin (Ireland) in the framework of International academic network called «HOPE – Horizons in Physics Education» there was the first meeting of the working group «Improvements in Physics Teaching – Meeting Future Global Challenges in Physics Higher Education». The ITMO University is a partner of a HOPE networkand the only Russian university which take part in its work.

The main goal of the HOPE network is improving the efficiency of teaching of physics and its appeal among young people.There are four working groups all in all. There are representatives from different world universities in each group.On the meetings that are held several times a year the existing problems in the field of physics teaching in schools and universities, solutions to these problems and many other things are discussed.Interaction also occurs between the groups.The participants share progress reports, research results.

At the first meeting of the working group the ITMO University was presented by Natalia Andreeva, the deputy head of the Department of photonics and optical information technologyand Pavel Kudryavtsev, the 6th year student of this department, the research-engineer of the International Institute "Photonics and Optical Information Technology"of the ITMO University.During the two-day business program, which consisted of meetings and round tables, the participants discussed the admission of students in bachelor degree and master’s degree on specialties related to physics, organizing internships and student exchanges within the framework of joint educational programs and the Erasmus Mundus program, teaching methods, the use of innovative techniques and much more.In particular, special attention was paid to the problem of a large dropout of physics students from the first year of their education.To make the young people interested in physics, to present them complex information correctly and in an accessible way - such tasks are not only to the members of HOPE network, it is relevant for the education system in most countries.Participants of the meeting developed questionnaires for students' survey, groups were formed to conduct these researches and process the results.The results will be presented at the next workshop, which will be held in May 2015 in Granada (Spain).Later, the overall results will be announced on the forum of all the working groups in Portugal in September.

"During the meeting, I noticed that the CIS countries have similar teaching system and methodologies", Natalia Andreeva says."We, in contrast to our foreign colleagues, treat our students rather as children, not students. But there are differences too. For example, Russian education does not face the problem of the lack of girls among the students of physics. While in many European countries there is such a problem. It is good that representatives of various universities gathered in one place. Together we can do more to help each other and efficiently solve certain problems".

The importance of participation of the ITMO University representatives in the HOPE project, according to Natalia, was noted many times by its coordinators: Nadine Witkowski from the Pierre and Marie Curie University (Paris, France), Ivan Ruddock from the University of Strathclyde (Glasgow, Scotland) and Marisa Michelini from the Università degli studi di Udine (Udine, Italy).

"We were very well met. We can say, we were surrounded by comfort and care. But the main thing: we were not positioned as a delegation from Russia, but precisely as representatives of the ITMO University. And it is a big step forward. We talked on equal terms with colleagues from the leading universities of the world, whose authority is unquestionable", Natalia Andreeva shares her impressions.

The ITMO University is actively involved in the activities of HOPE.Quite recently, from 27 to 30 August 2014, the University delegation visited the first annual forum called Inspiring young people to study physics, which was held at the Physics Department of the University of Helsinki (Finland).At that time already, Natalia Andreeva noticed a great interest that was shown by our foreign colleagues. "I felt that I was very well met. Professors from Finland, France, Great Britain, Malta, Greece, Hungary and Italy was coming up to me to say they were glad to see representatives of St. Petersburg on the forum and to express interest in expanding cooperation with the ITMO University. They were impressed by the high level of our work of attracting young people to the science of physics. Our approach is really different. We show that physics can not only be difficult, but what is more important - fascinating".

The HOPE academic network is a three-year old project, which started in 2013 and today brings together almost 100 participants. The main objectives of HOPE are improving the efficiency of physics teaching and teachers' education, increasing the competitiveness of specialized departments in the global education market, integration of physics course with the new needs of the European economy through innovation and business development.

Ana Luisa Simoes Gamboa, the coordinator of the HOPE academic networkin the ITMO University, emphasizes that participation in the project is important for the University not only in the framework of the "5-100" program, it is also very promising in terms of the expansion of international contacts."Members of the network are, for example, CERN (The European Organization for Nuclear Research), European Physical Society and universities that are in the top 100 world universities, such as Imperial College London, The University of Manchester, Pierre-and-Marie-Curie University, Universiteit Gent and The Katholieke Universiteit Leuven. Among the associate members - IBM Research Laboratory in Zurich, American Physical Society, Institute of Physics, University of Washington, University of São Paulo", she says.