STEM stands for Science, Technology, Engineering, and Mathematics. This acronym was introduced in the year 2001 by the scientific administrators at the U.S National Science Foundation (an independent agency of the U.S government that supports research).
STEM Education, a curriculum centered on these disciplines, has grown in popularity due to its innovative solutions to global problems. This teaching methodology is not confined to the study of theoretical subjects alone. In fact, it teaches the child about the application of techniques (taught under these subjects) in the real-world context.
Today, STEM education and STEM fields are considered an imperative part of competency-based curricula (Source- UNESCO). And it is a part of our school curriculum right from the elementary stage of formal education.
In this article, we will explore the need for STEM education in the Indian education sector. Let’s begin!
The Need for STEM Education in India
Our Indian Education system has changed and continues to change with time. With a visionary education policy, and the complexities of the new normal after the pandemic, the teaching and learning processes have changed forever. India is managing to keep up pace with innovative changes like online schooling. And our academicians have also identified that STEM education is the need of the hour. Our policymakers have incorporated this educational approach on the lines of the leading education systems of the world. Besides, our students need to build STEM readiness to prepare for their workforce/career success.
STEM Jobs and Careers in India and Abroad
STEM education has already proved to be the stepping stone to future success in the global workforce. As per United States’ Ministry, there was an overall projection of around a 14% increase in STEM jobs by the year 2020.
India is also showing similar signs of growth in STEM careers. In fact, the growth rate of these careers in India is quite impressive. As of 2020, India saw an upward trend in these jobs. The images below depict the percentage of the increase in these jobs between 2016-2019 (in metropolitans and region-wise respectively).
Clearly, STEM graduates have better employability prospects. So much so that international agencies predict that 80% of the jobs in the upcoming years will require some form of Maths and Science skills. STEM Players will rule the ‘Jobs of tomorrow’.
How Popular is STEM Learning in India?
In 2016, India ranked as a top global leader in the number of university graduates (with around 78 million students). However, this number had only 2.6 million new STEM graduates (3.3%). Later by the year 2018, India had a share of almost 32% of students picking up STEM learning.
This upward trend of STEM education is directly linked to the employability rates in Indian graduates. Let’s understand this better with the help of statistics.
Only 46% of the Indian youth were considered employable. However, at the same time, STEM degrees like Bachelors in Engineering or Bachelors in Technology had the highest rate of employability (55%). Despite an array of advantages, India still has a skilled workforce gap when it comes to STEM. Here’s Why?
Challenges in pursuing STEM careers
1. Gender Disparities
India had a total of 2.86 crore students enrolled at the higher secondary level (2021-22). However, as per a survey, only 57% of girls wanted to pursue a career in STEM fields. This percentage was much higher for boys in the same survey. Almost 85% of them were interested in STEM fields. The same survey highlights that 95% of children in India have male role models from these fields. This indicates huge gender disparity, and a big hindrance to filling the gap in the skilled workforce.
2. Infrastructure Challenges
Another challenge that India faces is related to the requirements like infrastructure. High-quality STEM education requires a dedicated space, facilities, trained teachers, and a curriculum that integrates STEM learning as per the suitable methodologies. The Indian government has taken some visionary steps to combat these challenges. However, there’s still a lot that needs to be done to make the desirable changes.
3. Integration of Technology
New resources for learning and the appropriate use of technology need good infrastructure and trained teachers. Many in India still need to adopt technology in better forms. And more importantly, we need to overcome the regular feel of a mundane classroom experience.
Now that we have discovered why STEM education has a crucial role in the future of our younger generations. Let’s look at the ways in which we, as stakeholders can help them to build this much-needed readiness
How can we Build STEM Readiness in Students?
The components of STEM Education are problem-solving, life skills, technology, and deep learning. Our students can develop creative thinking patterns and develop an interest in STEM subjects only if we give them unique learning experiences. The contemporary education system is beyond the classrooms, assignments, and assessments. And the world has already moved ahead of the chalk-and talk methods (through online schools and digital resources).
And India too needs stakeholders/educational professionals who can break-free from the regular patterns. Help your child by creating an atmosphere that acknowledges new ideas and encourages out-of-box thinking. It is also essential to make learning fun and engaging for students. Our government has taken some great steps to support STEM education. Let’s take a quick look at some of these before we wrap up.
Initiatives by the Government of India to strengthen STEM education:
• In October 2020, The Department of Science & Technology (Ministry of Science and Technology, Government of India) collaborated with IBM to improve STEM opportunities for girls. This collaboration was meant to scale up two initiatives of the DST namely Vigyan Jyoti and Vigyan Prasar (Engage with Science). This collaboration targeted meritorious girls in India. And the partner IBM supported these initiatives by reaching out to students and teachers in an interactive way. These policies and initiatives aim at fostering a scientific spirit in Indian youth. And is a great help for Indian girls to pursue higher education and succeed in STEM career fields.
• The Indian policymakers also encourage STEM education for girls/women through other opportunities. The Ministry of Education cascades relevant opportunities for STEM learning (for Higher education). For example, recently in Sep’2022, a public notice was uploaded on the Ministry’s website for candidates interested in Early Academy Fellowship offered by UK universities (The British Council scholarships).
• Atal Innovation Mission is another great initiative by the Government of India to foster curiosity, creativity, and design thinking in young minds. Through Atal Tinkering Labs, our students can develop innovation skills through hands-on learning opportunities for conceptual understanding. They also have numerous opportunities through competitions (national level), exhibitions, workshops, etc. organized periodically for STEM learning. The NITI Aayog has already set up more than 8706 Atal Tinkering Labs across the country (numbers as of August 2021). And 60% of these were set up in government schools.
Our modern-day world needs professionals with abilities to find upfront answers to real-world problems. And STEM education is a perfect aid for a young mind to develop all these abilities. Our younger generations will enter professions that are yet to be invented (over 85% of jobs by the year 2030).
So let’s take all the necessary efforts to help our generations be highly capable and most importantly, STEM Workforce Ready!