STEM Education in India
While the word stem brings plant life to mind for most casual readers, written in caps, the word STEM has a renewed meaning for science educators around the world. The term STEM, an acronym for Science, Technology, Engineering and Math, is attributed to Dr. Ramaley who served as an Assistant Director at the National Science Foundation of the States from 2001-2004. However, neither the acronym, or the idea of STEM education took root till the turn of the last decade. Arguably, the idea of STEM education got a real hard push when the then US President, Barrack Obama launched his flagship ‘Educate to Innovate’ campaign, aiming to raise a whopping 1 billion US dollars to support STEM initiatives across the States.
But wait, what is new about STEM? Has STEM not always existed? Many new and old business, whether they are making windmills, discovering new drugs, decoding genes, or making self- driven cars, are constantly engaged in all four STEM disciplines to make life better. But when educators and industry experts in the States came across statistics like these, they got really worried:
● The U.S. Dept. of Education states that only 16% of high school students are interested in a STEM career and have proven a proficiency in mathematics.
● 57% of high school freshmen who declare an interest in a STEM-related field lose interest before they graduate high school
● By 2018, there’s an estimated need for 8.65 million workers in STEM-related jobs
Some of the world’s largest (like Apple), fastest growing (like Uber) and most aspirational and watched for companies (like Tesla) do STEM based work! Little wonder that US is worried about not having enough of their children opting for STEM careers.
Why in India?
USA is a different country with different challenges. But in India, we do not face a problem of children not opting for STEM careers. In fact, quite the opposite is true. Estimates suggest colleges add about 1.5 million engineering graduates to the Indian economy each year! So why should we be working on STEM education? Well, because 33% of all our graduates are found ‘unemployable’. Their skills are so poor that companies choose not to hire them. A large majority of those hired have to go through rigorous 6-12 month training programs to be able to do basic work in fields like IT, bioinformatics, etc. So, India might not need to ‘encourage’ children to take up STEM careers, but it certainly needs to invest in developing a better ecosystem to inculcate STEM skills in children. Since STEM is such an important idea for educators, let’s try and understand it better. One approach could be to debunk a few myths/misconceptions about STEM.
Read full article here: STEM.
This article was featured in the may issue of the Mentor magazine