Making The STEM Stronger For Make In India
COVID-19 has highlighted the need for developing a plan to create a digital-first education system with an emphasis on STEM education.
Manohar, 14 years & Shariff, 15 years; coming from a Govt school in Bengaluru, Karnataka aspire to become a space scientist and engineer respectively, developed a Robotic Car using Ultrasonic sensors during their extra-curricular time. The efforts put in by these two students highlights the potential of the future of innovation in the country. This can only be made stronger with quality education which can permeate across the nation.
Digitalization for the underserved
The impact of COVID standstill was highly felt by the underserved students from the Government schools, wherein engaging with them at their homes became difficult. Therefore, we can say that the global pandemic was an eye-opener in emphasizing the scope of innovation in our existing educational system. It has highlighted the need for developing a plan to create a digital-first education system with an emphasis on STEM education. Digital-first education transcends from conducting online classes to the involvement of appropriate platforms, technology, tools, interactivity, curation, content and a lot more.
But is India ready for digital education to permeate to the underserved?
According to the National Sample Survey, only 12.5% of Indian student homes have internet access. With further urban-rural divide: 27% have internet access in urban areas while only 5% in rural areas. Though India has made tremendous progress when comes to network availability, the onus falls on the corporates to collaborate with the Government to make digital education accessible across all levels and regions of the country
Connect, content and Collaborate
As India acclimatizes to the new ‘digital normal’, trial and error methods have helped teachers and students to gain knowledge of what works best and does not. What we need to keep in mind – going online and digital after eons of using and getting used to blackboard/projectors/physical smart TV, etc.; is not easy for either the student or the teacher or the parents. An approach needs to be adopted where all three stakeholders are brought in and trained. Here are a few ways that can help boost this system:
Establishing a mutual communication platform, for eg: a WhatsApp group to bring students, parents, and teachers into a single platform. This will pave the way for facilitating online tutoring, remedial classes, fun sessions, and weekly touchpoints with teachers and corporate volunteers.
Need for more Government initiatives like Digital Infrastructure for Knowledge Sharing (DIKSHA), a national digital infrastructure for teachers and is easily available on google play store. Recently the India report on Digital Education June 2020 states that as of July 2020, it is estimated that over 60 crores QR coded Energized Textbooks (ETBs) are being printed this year, with more than 30 crore content plays, and 200 crore page hits already on DIKSHA.
As India continues to be the world’s 2nd largest internet user, and with the easy availability of mobile phones – video/voice call and mobile-friendly content, call to mentor kids by narrating stories, teaching simple English words, etc., can work wonders for the students. Having a toll-free number-based education, SMS based education, for eg: Pratham's 'Missed Call Do Aur Kahani Suno' is one such initiative. Karnataka govt doing some excellent job in reaching out to the students through TV-based education as well
At a rural level, direct delivery of study materials to be done by identifying and training local volunteers for students who do not have the required facilities. Use of social engagements is crucial to getting the students’ attention - community loudspeaker, Radio channels, the podcast Shiksha Vani designed for CBSE high school students can become pillars of imparting education in a distanced lifestyle.
Robust roots of STEM
To add value to the ecosystem, corporates can work closely with schools and NGOs to streamline the curriculum according to industry standards and requirements. Creating a ‘personalized instruction board’ for students, for example, students can be shown how technology can help them simplify mathematics with instructions. Taking advantage of their industry knowledge, business leaders and corporates must step-in to encourage the integration of next-gen technologies such as robotic, AI, ML, RPA into the innovative curriculums. They are also well-equipped to add the nuances of problem-solving and creative thinking into the curriculum, which will always be a key criterion for corporates while hiring for STEM roles.
As companies implement schemes and programs like these, along with a greater focus on STEM skills at schools and colleges, the digital skills gap will narrow gradually. Initiatives such as E-Training in rural India, empowering the disabled, setting up tinker and science labs, establishing smart classes, virtual workshops, and competitions will also go a long way in bridging the skill gap. The best way to ensure India’s future success is that students must get equal and quality opportunities to learn the fundamentals of STEM education at the primary level. It is time to invest in the future of digital transformation from grassroot level and upwards.
Disclaimer: The views expressed in the article above are those of the authors' and do not necessarily represent or reflect the views of this publishing house
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