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Need for Early Exposure to STEM Learning

By Charu Noheria, Co-Founder and COO, Practically

April 09, 2021    7 min read

With the National Education Policy, the education sector is set to undergo a paradigm shift to prepare students with skills and abilities to face the future following global regulations and policies.

STEM (Science, Technology, Engineering, and Mathematics) subjects for school students have become dry and educators have limited strategies to retain students’ attention. Students learn foundational concepts mostly following passive and rote learning sources. It is shown that such methods lead to a less than 30% retention rate, which also creates disinterest in these key subjects. Science and Math have always been the focus of students and parents in India. These subjects can be viewed as high scoring subjects, as there is little room for error once you understand the concepts and can apply them. With experiential and interactive learning, STEM becomes a very interesting area to learn as it helps us make sense of the world around us.

Nearly 80% of the jobs which will be created in the upcoming decade will necessitate usage of math and science skills as reported by National Science Foundation. These skills are popularly regarded as 21st century skills or STEM skills. STEM helps in boosting the holistic learning process of children by nurturing the power of deduction and reasoning while improving the pattern of recognition. Developing a culture of application-based learning and innovation among the schools, students, colleges, and teachers is critical for exploiting opportunities that will present themselves in the next decade or so. Continuous upskilling and remaining relevant would be key to professional survival. Experiential learning develops a key skill “learning to self-learn” with higher retention rate.

But some challenges need to be addressed to develop STEM skills for the Indian student population before tapping into the benefits of these global opportunities. Inadequate infrastructure, outdated curriculum and insufficient training to guide aspirants pose a major challenge. We need to upgrade our marks- focused, exam-oriented education system and need to bring in an advanced teaching, learning and evaluation process. Also, the implementation of STEM-based learning needs upgraded facilities such as high-speed internet, classroom hardware, equipped labs, etc. required to adopt cutting-edge technologies. STEM education also emphasizes the need for quality teachers who are well-versed in the latest know-how in their respective fields.

The solution requires coherent efforts from all stakeholders, including government, corporates, society and general public. Realizing the potential of STEM education, several countries have started introducing advanced courses like robotics, IoT, Artificial Intelligence in the school curriculum to promote creativity, critical thinking amongst students. Now with the Government of India focusing on initiatives such as ‘Make in India’, ‘Skill India’, a well-designed STEM program should be included and implemented from an early age keeping in mind the needs of the workforce of the future.

While the growth of STEM education has picked up significantly in the past few years, studies have shown that children develop an interest in STEM fields at an average age of eight years. Promoting teamwork, the ability to look beyond smart classrooms, development of engaging learning tools is the need of the hour to help students push boundaries and not fear failure.

A country’s economy can develop only when all sections of society contribute to it. Fancy college degrees are becoming obsolete with every passing day. Big, forward-thinking corporates are focusing on hiring talent that can lend a fresh approach towards tackling day to day issues. The education and training of the workforce will play a crucial role in carving a niche in the global market. To develop students as strategic thinkers, resilient contributors to workforce while being global citizens, STEM learning should be introduced early on thus exposing students to an interdisciplinary approach and integrated knowledge.

The article first appeared in India Didactics Association’s vol - 5 | issue - 3 | April 2021 Newsletter

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