India accounts for 31.7% of the total number of STEM graduates globally and has one of the largest STEM job markets in the world. The country is also the third-largest hub for unicorns and regularly moves the global innovation index. These gratifying figures are a testament to India’s growing prowess in the scientific community, creating for itself a strong position in STEM globally.
As innovation in education is undergoing a sea change with more and more Indians becoming innovators rather than consumers, there is a huge opportunity for disruption by STEM education in the K-segment. 12. Today, the number of STEM jobs exceeds the number of STEM graduates in the country, with 2020 seeing a 44% increase in STEM job vacancies.
According to the National Science Foundation, an estimated 80% of jobs created over the next decade will require some form of math and science skills, and India’s young workforce must be prepared for this eventuality. However, the luxury of access is limited to a few. Physical inequalities in education often outweigh digital inequalities, allowing a small number of people to access quality STEM education.
Only by leveraging technology and technology-enabled learning can we make meaningful progress in democratizing these essential STEM skills.
The leaky STEM pipeline
Although there is enough and more evidence to suggest that students with strong STEM skills have a wider range of opportunities, resources and equipment for STEM learning are expensive and hard to find, especially in non-urban areas.
Therefore, there is only one piece of equipment in the lab, and all students must form groups to use the equipment. This takes away the joys of personalized learning and deters students from actively participating in these classes. Fear-driven, exam-driven learning can often discourage students and limit their curiosity and scientific potential, focusing only on the academic curriculum.
The biggest step towards the democratization of STEM would be the combined effort of all stakeholders – public and private – in the smooth transition to digital learning, where every student can benefit from the experience of laboratory equipment personalized in a virtual setting. Where they will have the freedom to experiment with various concepts and ideas and it will all be just an internet connection away.
As the world enters a new phase of hybrid working and learning, combining physical and digital learning will be more critical than ever. By leveraging technologies such as computer vision and AI, we are able to develop learning systems that provide students with a mix of synchronous and asynchronous learning formats, experiences and real “phygital” education. Its applications in STEM education are limitless, as is the ability to improve learning outcomes.
This could revolutionize the STEM education system in India and create experiences that are critically important in sparking interest in science education, especially for students from under-resourced and underserved regions. Hands-on learning enables students to see and understand what is happening in front of them and allows them to understand critical scientific concepts and make sense of the world based on their personal experiences and their own fund of knowledge.
The path to follow
Technology is a looming force that continues to revolutionize the workforce of the future, and STEM education and skills are a crucial cog in that wheel, driving the radical advancement of new knowledge discoveries.
As India is making significant strides in the field of science and technology globally, a holistic and multidisciplinary approach is essential in STEM education. The true democratization of STEM education will not only enable learners to shape the workforce of tomorrow, but will also lead to unprecedented breakthroughs in the STEM education sector in India.
The author is Chief Strategy Officer, BYJU’S
February 28, 2022