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Education industry 2017-03-30

STEM Educators: India on the road for progress

STEM Education’ is relatively a new term in the Indian education sector, which has picked up quite a lot in the last few years.

By Feature Writer
STEM Educators: India on the road for progress

Subjects like science and math have been taught in school since the beginning, but recently there has been a vast difference in the way of learning. Now, students can very well experience the different connotations by ‘doing & learning by themselves’. This is where Science Technology Engineering Math (STEM) education comes into use.

STEM: Better Late than Never
STEM Education’ is relatively a new term in the Indian education sector, which has picked up quite a lot in the last few years. In contrary to the belief that India produces the highest number of scientists & engineers, the growth of STEM education had been slow till few years ago. However, in the last decade or so, with the popping up of many STEM education companies in the country, Indian education system is on the right track for development.

STEM Learning- Need of the hour
According to the National Science Foundation, it is predicted that 80 per cent of the jobs created in the next decade will require some form of math and scienceskills. Despite having the best of the brains in India, the exam focused education model had limitations related to innovation, problem solving and creativity. This is where the STEM players like Edutech, Creya, Stem Learning, Stem Champ and many others come in to fill this gap. In words of Sajeev Karuthody, Director-India, Edutech, “We were able to foresee that scope of technology in Education should be beyond implementing ICT infrastructure in education. Instead more profound impact can be achieved by introducing ‘Hands On’ application based learning – STEM. We introduced hands on learning platforms for K12 like Robotics, hands on tools to understand and apply basic concepts like wheels, gears, machines and mechanisms, digital science labs and now 3D printing, design and technology, tinkering labs and maker space labs.” On the same lines, Venkatesh Datla, Founder, Creya says, “I and the other co-founders had the opportunities to not only study education systems across developed countries, but also India as well. One of the insights we had about our K12 students was the inability to apply classroom concepts to real world problem solving. The second insight was that our students do not appreciate the need of interdisciplinary approaches to solving real world problems. For addressing both these issues, we felt STEM programs were a good fit as long as we aligned it to our curriculum framework, instead of blindly copying from the west.”

STEM Innovations for best results
It is essential that all STEM companies incorporate portfolios which cater to end to end STEM and ICT learning requirements of any institution. Since the last few years, STEM companies have been incorporating innovative techniques for making kids more entertained as well as interested in the ‘do it yourself’ way. Karuthody of Edutech quotes, “With the fourth industrial revolution coming in, we need to prepare our students to do innovative jobs and not commodity jobs. Using STEM we can empower our students to solve the real life challenges using the knowledge learnt in schools and colleges.”

Few of the innovations, after speaking to the experts are mentioned below:

- Education sector is looking beyond smart classrooms towards hands-on learning and STEM, enhancement on their current ICT and smart class platforms like VR and AR.

- STEM companies working with schools to help them setup STEM Centres, tinkering labs and adding the upcoming technologies like VR and AR.

- Help educational intuitions to upgrade their library infrastructure with more engaging learning assets and management tools.

- Enable the educational institutions cater to their digital learning needs by implementing Learning Management Systems, assessment systems, language labs, library management system, Gamification etc.
- Programs designed to ensure that schools don't need to buy multiple projects of Robotics, Science Activities, Math Lab, Soft Skills lab, Photography or programming. Ensured all of these are combined in a seamless experience of project based learning and delivering it a full suite solution that has the manipulative parts, the project curriculum and the implementation support.

Regarding innovations, Datla enlightens, “Creya Learning is the pioneer in the space of STEM learning and 21st century skills being intact the first one to set-up Design studios long before talking about Design Thinking in K12 Education became fashionable. Our programs have been experienced by about 100 schools, all over India.”

Hurdles on the way
As mentioned earlier, there has already been a delay in incorporating STEM studies in schools. The cause can be the many hurdles that have been on the way. One of the biggest challenge involved in implementing STEM education is to design infrastructure, curriculum and to provide kids the best guidance and support. Another challenge can be funding, schools need money for construction of Makerspaces, DIY (Do it Yourself Tools), best computers etc, which are some of the basic aspects of the STEM education. On the hurdles faced by Creya, Datla says, “Some of the road blocks and limitations are more of a mindset initiative. For example schools cite lack of time or space for incorporating a STEM program. One of the ways of overcoming the limitations is by investing in educating the ecosystem about the need for such programs. We can also consider using summer and winter breaks for these STEM programs where schools have constraints during school hours.” Another hurdle as pointed by Karuthody, “Many of the educators still think that by introducing STEM, students will get diverted from their studies and they would not be able to complete their defined curriculum in that stipulated amount of time. The only way to address this is by making them aware and changing their beliefs by showing them the positive results of introducing their kids to STEM learning methodology.”

Eying the future
Being the second most populous country with unmatched talent and culture, India needs a combined support from government and other education societies to avail the opportunity and benefits of STEM education. Now, with the Government of India also focussing on campaigns like ‘Make in India’ Innovation Mission, there is focus on developing innovation and manufacturing right from schools, skilling centres and higher education. There have been encouraging programs to implement Maker spaces, tinkering labs in this direction. Moreover, private schools are taking lead and implementing Robotics, Digital science labs, maker space etc which have a cascading effect.

To conclude, it can be said that overall a culture of application based learning and innovation is spreading amongst the schools, students, colleges and teachers which is definitely a strong signal that the future of STEM technologies and adoption in India is very bright.

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