The Indian education sector has been focusing on building momentum and preference towards STEM education for years now, given that technology is becoming all pervasive and is giving rise to newer job profiles that require a niche set of skill-sets which are increasingly dependent on next-generation technologies including AI, ML, coding and robotics to name a few. NEP 2020 guidelines have made it compulsory for 6th graders and above to learn coding as part of their coursework, thereby emphasising the need for hands-on learning. Several public-private partnerships have been relentlessly working towards increasing children’s participation in STEM education and their prospective careers. However, the bigger concern is when one takes into consideration the gender ratio as children progress towards pursuing a career in STEM and next-generation technology. As per the Global Gender Gap Report by World Economic Forum released in March 2021, only an alarming 29.2% technical roles are held by women in India; in fact, India has fallen 28 places in its ranking in 2021 when compared to 2020 – from Rank 112 to Rank 140.
Against this backdrop, Avishkaar, a category leader in next-generation technology education that focuses on robotics, AI, coding, and app development, conducted a survey titled – “India’s Future in Next-Generation Tech & STEM ” in June 2021 among 5000 parents and 5000 children across Indian cities including Delhi NCR, Chennai, Mumbai, Kolkata, Bangalore, Pune, Hyderabad and Cochin.
The survey brought to light two pertinent insights:
- Firstly, it indicated that gender disparity in STEM fields in India is a glaring issue, owing to a lack of female role models in the industry
- 95% children, including girls, recall male role models as inspiration in STEM fields, highlighting the urgent need to increase the exposure around women role models in STEM fields
- When asked why there is an underrepresentation of girl children choosing to pursue a career in STEM and choose top three reasons:
- 50% of parents feel that societal pressures are one of the main reasons
- 42% feel that the parents’ influence plays a role
- 30% of parents even feel that the work environment in our country in these fields is more suitable for males versus females
- Secondly, it highlighted the need for schools to implement hands-on learning and introduce children to the world of innovation and move away from rote learning techniques
- 53% of the parent respondents use the hands-on learning approach to keep up their children’s interest levels in next-gen tech & STEM subjects. This includes toys and kits that help their children with application-based learning
- Only 33% of parents feel that the current school curriculum is enough to help their child prepare for a future in next-gen tech and STEM to some extent. 90% of parents feel that this aspect of the curriculum should be made a priority in school
With the aim to gauge the perception of parents of young children, as well as the children themselves on their interest levels and career aspirations in STEM and next-generation technology fields, the survey is a deep-dive into the hidden concerns in the industry. Avishkaar is at the forefront of implementing such changes to ensure gender neutrality along with a more hands-on learning experience.
Commenting on the insights from the survey, Pooja Goyal, COO, and Co-founder, Avishkaar said, “It is heartening to see that parents are making conscious choices to ensure they nurture an innovative mindset among their children. I’m convinced that If our children have to thrive in the world of tomorrow, we need to create micro-environments in schools and homes that make it safe for children to experiment, to take risks, to fail, to think outside the box, to break things, and to build new things. We need to ensure that our children are not mere consumers but creators of technology.
“The process of building new things and creating new solutions is rife with failure and needs a lot of grit and resilience, both skills that we need to inculcate in our children. We need to help our children build this muscle from an early age. As such, it is important that we provide safe spaces for children, especially girls, to take risks and help them build tribes where they can brainstorm ideas and think outside the box. The next important step is gender neutrality, where not every girl has to pursue STEM careers, but children who are really good at it and have interest in the field should have the opportunity to do that”, she further added.