STEM for growth

March 8, 2021 3:45 AM

Move children, especially, girls to STEM-based careers

But for these alternate career options to become available, we need to equip today’s youth with relevant skills. (Representative image)But for these alternate career options to become available, we need to equip today’s youth with relevant skills. (Representative image)

By Vineet Nayar

India has a population of 158 million children—74% live in rural India. But that doesn’t necessarily indicate that education, opportunities and livelihood cannot be made accessible to them.

With the NEP 2020 and FY22 Budget, which focuses on transforming the education landscape through the creation of local pedagogy, a substantially increased investment in research, and skill development of women, we have re-iterated the non-negotiables of our country’s development vision and moved closer to an ‘Atmanirbhar Bharat’.

While English is one of our official languages, the use of the mother tongue for conceptual clarity and cognitive growth is important. Research proves that a child’s first language has an important role in shaping one’s life and helps them learn better.

While most parents in rural India want their children to be proficient in English, it remains a pipe dream. It’s time we shift the focus from English-medium to ‘locally-relevant-medium schools’. And with advancements in technology, the market is flooded with ed-tech solutions supporting a multi-lingual learning approach.

When I finished school, there were limited options for higher education, but some of my friends chose unique career paths. Just like organic farming has gained fame as a profitable business model, there are other entrepreneurial ideas that the current generation can embrace. But for these alternate career options to become available, we need to equip today’s youth with relevant skills.

Imagine meeting a 12-year-old who has can develop a mobile app that re-sells items available online. While we still struggle with digital transactions, today’s youth is developing technologically advanced software. To that accord, coding has emerged as a much-needed skill for the 21st century, and we need to catch-up with other countries in including these skills as a part of the school curriculum. I believe Coding is a basic skill in the digital age, and enabling children to work with technology will boost their confidence & basic communication skills. Additionally, we need to develop innovative and interesting Math and Science modules to motivate children, especially girls, to move to STEM-based careers.

Quoting our PM from a recent webinar, “We need to work in mission mode to ensure that the talents of those from rural areas are not allowed to die but are rather given opportunities to bloom”. In entirety, we need to guarantee that children feel confident about their education, skills and knowledge. And building foundational skills in local languages, equipping children with culturally relevant pedagogy will encourage talent.

It is our duty as educational leaders, entrepreneurs, pedagogues and teachers to break linguistic barriers and induct our nation’s youth to learning new skills to prepare them for the future.

The author is founder chairman, Sampark Foundation and former CEO, HCL Technologies.

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