Home / Brand Stories / STEM: The way forward for tomorrow’s diverse workforce

Figure this. Compared to 572 men, only 17 women have won a Nobel Prize in physics, chemistry or medicine. Females make for just a quarter of students enrolling in higher education in the fields of engineering, manufacturing and construction. Only 28 per cent of the world’s researchers are women. And just 28 per cent of all students enrolling in ICT are of the female gender.

Even as top schools across the country are integrating science, technology, engineering and mathematics (STEM) - or application-based learning - into their curriculums, there exists a clear gender divide on subject choices for advanced studies. Subjects like mathematics, physics and computers, which were traditionally considered to be male turfs, are opening up for women over the years, but the progress has been gradual.

A recent report by the World Economic Forum reveals that the global gender gap is widening and it will be another 100 years before this gap closes, especially when it comes to STEM-related careers. It details how, across the world, there is a big underrepresentation of women in STEM occupations. There have been several international interventions to bridge this gap. As a result, the numbers are slowly creeping up, but there is a long way to go before we see a noticeable shift.

STEM is fast getting included in the curriculums of top schools around the country where it is compelling children to think beyond the textbook. Creativity, curiosity, imagination and innovation have become the new buzzwords, and schools are increasingly trying to impart education which is applicable in day-to-day life and not learn-by-rote.

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The focus is on giving children practical skills, such as a design mindset, innovative thinking and adaptive learning. All this will make the future workforce ready for new-collar jobs.

“Technology is a way of life now and children need to be exposed to it early. Practical subjects like graphic design, animation, coding, robotics and 3D printing are being included in the curriculum. With STEM learning, children are being taught how to put information from books to practical use, because that is the need of the hour for this generation," says Ishita Sharma, headmistress of Bhai Parmanand Vidya Mandir in East Delhi.

IBM’s ‘Teachers Try Science’, for example, aims to enhance education outcomes through improved access to STEM teaching resources in government schools. These tools and strategies also help spark students’ interest in STEM. The program has reached more than 55,000 teachers across 12 Indian states in India. These teachers, in turn, have impacted over 2.2 million students. The program involves 8 regional languages, plus English.

Through other initiatives, IBM is also taking STEM education to the next level and building a mindset for innovation among schoolchildren.

More and more schools are modifying their curriculums to make the learning as practical as possible.

“STEM has been very successful in America. In India, however, the access to the same has been limited to the elite schools. It is time that its integration into the main curriculum is made compulsory for all schools," feels Delhi-based educationist Romila Suri. She goes on to give an example of a young boy from Pune who used the knowledge from his school lessons to create solar lanterns which are now being used to light up several villages.

“It’s all about thinking creatively and implementing the knowledge gained in classrooms to practical use," she adds.

Corporates are doing their bit to give the country a better future, more specifically for girls. IBM Corporate Citizenship, in partnership with the Indian government and industry associations, has introduced several programs that help address the gaps in STEM education. These initiatives also aid in the development of new-collar skills in vocational and college education.

Know more about these programs at IBM’s India Skills Forum.

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