STEM Champ

"This is no experiment, it's the future of education"


January 14, 2016

Teachers are the real investors, their choices matter (Choose STEM)

We all know that technology is an intricate part of our lives. Yet the number of innovative thinkers in our world is far less in comparison to the number of adopters of a given technology. Maybe, it is the comfort that restricts us into believing that we don’t have to worry about it since others are already working on it. This way of thinking is hazardous as it doesn’t just make us dependent on others but it also makes us less productive. The number of successful innovators in India is much smaller compared to the western countries (which is not true for Indians, as a lot of innovators are Indians but just don’t innovate in India). It’s not that people aren’t trying or are restricted by their own thinking, which can partly influence a person but the problem lies in the evolution of the education system of our country. Indian education system though evolving, has not adapted adequately to prepare the child to meet the fast changing global requirements. It remains specific to age groups and function on pre-built versions of limited experiential learning. People are taught to ‘follow’ in schools. The idea of doing something in their own way is anti-establishment and hence does not fit the ‘rules’ & ‘guidelines’. STEM bridges this gap by complementing the current education system through emphasizing on innovation & development of problem-solving, critical thinking and collaboration skills.

That is why India needs to revise the way young children are taught today. One should be able to come to terms with the fact that all the great thinkers were the ones who failed miserably at the onset of their research, so failure shouldn’t stop you from trying further. However, they also worked against establishment and in the end they proved themselves to the world. I am not quoting experiences in isolation, from Galileo to Newton to Einstein the world has gained much from people following their curiousity and not the established system. But with the increasing level of literacy we are lucky to be alive in modern times where new ideas if not encouraged are also not tabooed, which gives us hope.

We hope to introduce a new way of thinking with our STEM initiatives.  A new approach to educating young minds, which will allow them to break bounds and create new technology for the benefit of the nation. It will help the kids shape their curiousity in science and technology efficiently & effectively. They will get hands on experience and guidance in order to turn their imagination into reality. They will get help to work on their potential and expand their skill set. However this cannot be done without the encouragement and consent of their parents and teachers. The government definitely needs to invest more in this initiative, which has already proven itself in countries like US. However, the person who is directly responsible for the development of a child’s potential is the teacher.

Teachers are the ideals children look up to. This might come across as not so believable with changing times, yet if you ask people about their inspiration they would always quote the names of at least one teacher. Parents would obviously want to invest in their kid’s development but it is the job of the teacher to invest his/her time and experience in shaping their futures. That is why we believe that the first step towards encouraging the children to participate in the STEM initiative is to train the teachers efficiently about it.

We first need to understand that STEM subjects can’t exist in isolation and just rote learning theory would not get the kids anywhere in the field, given the current technical scenario. We need teachers to understand the need and benefits of STEM education so that they can opt to promote it. It is in their interest because at the end of the day they wouldn’t want to invest all their efforts in a lost cause. We all love to see good results. Especially in times where marks are everything, students focus only on passing the exams and sometimes vomits textbook theories instead of understanding the underlying principles. This also means that even if they score well, they are no good in the industry. We want our teachers to make sure they keep this away from happening. Their job is to inspire the kids and generate an interest in STEM. Without interest, knowledge has no future. We want to build a bright future for our country and we want you to invest in STEM. Help us in helping you. Be a part of our initiative.

Reference: What is STEM?

It’s time for India to catch up, let stop this brain drain, let’s focus on STEM!

Education is a continuous process of learning. Now various methods can be implemented to ensure that a student is taught right from the wrongs, facts from the myths and numbers from the letters. Education primarily aims at making a person efficient if not an expert, in all fields of life. The goal is to make a person capable of surviving in the harsh world today but it can be more than that, much more. However with the advent of better technology, it’s hard to keep up by just educating yourself with the basics. The right kind of education will make sure that at the end of your course you are skilled in at least one sphere of life and can afford a job for yourself which will also be beneficial for the nation.

People today are obsessed with accumulation of degrees than with accumulation of knowledge. With the cut throat competition rampant in all spheres of life, people try all means of first getting selected and then on a later stage realize that they might not be adequately skilled for the job. Let me give you an example. There is a person who scores well all their life and finally gets a job based on his marks. The profile let’s say is a ‘Civil Engineer’. Now this person has no real experience at drawing buildings on his own and when he sits to work, it takes him hours to do the same work that a person who has been working as an intern from a long time before. All his degrees will not aid him here because the prime outcome of a practical approach is hands on experience.  It will take him a very long time to get a sense of all the material required to draw perfectly fast for the job.

This example is more common than we deem it to be. In the same manner a lot of people turn up for jobs they are not skilled for or some jobs fall in the hands of people who have no inclination towards them, a perfect misfit. However, it’s not their fault, rather the curriculum and system of education is to be complemented in such a way which helps to set things right.

Things are not the same outside India. Taking the example of US, after an interagency meeting of NFS (National Science Foundation), Rita Colwell provided a solution to the problem at hand and introduced STEM education system.  Since then it has been implemented in all parts of the US, with recent spending of about $2 billion on STEM education. Obama is largely supportive of the STEM way of helping the kids learn. On the other end, most of the immigration debates in America are surrounded by factors concerning STEM. With the lack of skilled workers for Hi-tech jobs, the preference for the right skilled candidate has increased to ensure fair contribution in the country’s economy and welfare.

The problem with the current system of education elsewhere is that the subjects of STEM are taught in isolation with no practical approach. Now while it might ensure great theoretical knowledge, it has no effect when it comes to doing a task at hand. The STEM education in USA today serves multiple purposes and is largely the most encouraged learning program in the US. The idea is to teach the kids at an elementary level so that they get hands on experience at a very young age. The program also targets teachers and helps them to develop skills through additional training of STEM.

US also has an award program called Boy Scouts of America which is a great step towards promoting interest and involvement in STEM disciplines. They have awards like Nova and Supernova for young boy scouts as they complete specific levels required in their program in each field of STEM. After US, the next big step is taken up by Australia. I-STEM (invigorating STEM) which is an enrichment program based in Sydney. The success of this very program has resulted in numerous universities and science organisation supporting the STEM initiative. I-STEM also involves enrichment programs where students as well as teachers are taken to the US Space Academy Program.

In terms of the percentage of its graduates who studied in STEM programs, Canada ranks 12th among other peer countries with 21.2%, a number higher than the United States but lower than countries such as France, Germany and Austria. The peer country with the greatest proportion of STEM graduates is Finland with over 30% of their university graduates coming from Science, Mathematics, Computer Science, and Engineering programs. Canada also has a scouts program similar to the US initiative. Countries like India, Turkey and Qatar are also in league with a few people taking the initiative forward but the ratio of expenditure in these countries is miniscule in comparison to western countries. To describe the impact on India due to this, three out of four students (78%) from India who have migrated to US for higher studies have enrolled into STEM programs-highest proportion than any other country. These are the numbers, now let’s discuss facts.

This is where India stands today. In a world quickly evolving and inclined towards technology, India is lagging far behind in terms of making the right investments in the field of education. The nation doesn’t need new uniforms, but it does need STEM. The better half of the world has realized this and has already started working towards it. It’s time for India to catch up, let stop this brain drain, let’s focus on STEM!

Reference: Meet the STEM scouts, STEM enrollment in US by international students

Be both the rabbit and the tortoise, realize your potential with STEM…

We all remember the story of the little race between the tortoise and the rabbit. It ends with a very inspiring moral of ‘slow and steady wins the race’. However recently, if you’ve been active on the social media platforms, a new version of that story is running viral with a totally different, yet wonderful moral for each one of us to realize.

It starts with the same old race but here the rabbit realized his mistake and challenges the tortoise again. This time he wins because nobody in most likelihood would like to repeat the same mistake. The story goes on with the tortoise realizing that he can’t beat the rabbit at speed but there is one thing the rabbit can’t do, that is swim. So he challenges the rabbit to race on his kind of route which requires one to cross a river. After this one race, it is certain that both rabbit and tortoise have a forte different from another. In the next race they both work together and the first half the rabbit carries the tortoise on ground and the second half is for the tortoise to carry the rabbit across the river. Win-win for both!

This story introduces the value of team work against competition. Yet there is one salient message that is hard to miss, the story revolves around the theory of multiple intelligence. While this differential is settled in terms of looks and psychology, a lot of people overlook this when it comes to intellect. The dictionary meaning of multiple intelligence goes like: “The theory of multiple intelligence is a theory of intelligence that differentiates it into specific (primarily sensory) ‘modalities’, rather than seeing intelligence as dominated by a single general ability”. According to Dr. Howard Gardner of Harvard University, these ‘modalities’ are eight in number, all different from each other. Now imagine running a combination of these modalities to make up for a pattern of multiple intelligence! Which proves that no two children are the same.

Now, the idea of STEM education is to cater to all these different modalities and foster creative-analytical thinking in the children. While they will learn how to experiment and create new things using their theoretical knowledge, they would learn to do it using their potential. Each child has a different potential and STEM education would focus on helping the child realize his.

It is safe to say that theory and marks are not the only things what define a person; people are more than just a number on the paper. STEM Education is an initiative that realizes the difference in potential and caters to multiple intelligence in students. STEM is an intricate part of our lives and each of these talents can prove themselves as equally important in terms of function. One of the reasons students in India fail to understand this and suffer from depression is because there is no proper emphasis on this very important aspect. They are all competing to fit in one shoe while they have a bigger foot.

The best thing about practical experience is that there is no set rule or ‘the right way’ to do it. One can experiment and discover a new phenomena which can be responsible for a new theory altogether. The basic idea is to formulate a sense of responsibility in the children at a very young age so that all their theoretical knowledge can be united with their practical approach to life.

One thing we need to make sure is that the child is well guided in his experiments so that his efforts are not futile. Nothing comes out of digging water and STEM education is an organised initiative that will take charge of shaping and coordinating the cognitive and practical aspects of a student’s life. They will learn to indulge in their intelligence according to their choosing and not be forced to pursue something that they feel they have no interest or potential in. They will be helped and guided throughout to come up with theories of utility which will empower them and help them realize the actual importance of Science, Technology, Engineering and Maths. It is to actually create and not just rote learn how to create.

We all have a potential and STEM is all inclusive, there is not one field that functions independent of these. Hence the idea is to encourage students to realize their potential and foster a scientific approach so that their grey cells keep busy while they explore the area of their interest.

Reference: Gardner’s Multiple Intelligence

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