How after-school programmes can help close the gaps in STEM Education

After-school programs make STEM subjects interesting by offering hands-on experiences, practical applications, and exposure to advanced technologies. – Aug 05, 2023

STEM (Science, Technology, Engineering, and Maths) is the foundation for innovation, progress, and societal advancement. As we approach a new era marked by discoveries in Artificial Intelligence, Robotics, and Biotechnology, it is critical to provide the next generation with the information and skills required to flourish in this fast-changing environment. This can be done by cultivating curiosity, critical thinking, and problem-solving skills. India accounts for 31.7% of total STEM graduates worldwide and has one of the world’s largest STEM job marketplaces. In addition, the country is the third largest unicorn center and is steadily climbing the Global Innovation Index.

According to the National Science Foundation, 80% of jobs created in the next decade will require some form of Maths and Science skills. However, access is confined to a limited population in India. Physical inequities in education frequently outnumber digital ones, enabling only a small number of people access to high-quality STEM education. India has emerged as a global leader in the field of STEM in recent years and STEM education is more important than ever before. Yet there is a huge gap in STEM education, especially in rural and marginalized areas. Further, two out of three girls who study STEM do not enter the workforce. In addition, 60% of institutions are located in rural areas and are severely under-resourced. Investing in after-school programs has become critical in bridging this gap and encouraging more enrolment in higher education.

Potential to transform

After-school programs provide an exceptional opportunity to supplement and enrich the formal education system. They provide students with additional learning opportunities outside of the usual classroom setting and allow them to explore STEM subjects in a practical and hands-on manner. These programs frequently provide access to cutting-edge technology, equipment, and resources that are not always available in traditional institutions. Such programs can also target and reach girls and other underrepresented groups by providing hands-on learning experiences that schools may not always be able to provide. If students are prepared for greater academic achievement earlier in life, the country can build stronger school-to-career pipelines that create more diversified and highly skilled talent.

Afterschool programs have the potential to transform the way STEM education is seen in India, where rote learning and exam-focused education have traditionally dominated the system. They help pique students’ interest in STEM by shifting the emphasis from memorization to practical application. As a result, higher education enrolment in STEM subjects is expected to rise, which is critical for the country’s advancement in science and technology.

Impact on higher education

Investing in afterschool programs can bring huge long-term advantages. India can strengthen its position as a worldwide leader in STEM by cultivating the next generation of innovators, researchers, and problem solvers. Afterschool programs frequently include interactive activities, workshops, and projects that promote creativity, critical thinking, and collaboration — all of which are necessary in the STEM area. They can serve as a conduit for students to pursue higher education and future professions and contribute to reducing the gender gap in STEM education by creating an atmosphere of acceptance that encourages girls to explore their interests in science and technology.

Closing the STEM education gap and promoting increased enrollment in higher education can be accomplished by strategically investing in after-school programs. The government, educational institutions, and private-sector organizations should work together to allocate resources and encourage the creation of high-quality programs across the country. This investment should go towards improving the infrastructure, curriculum, and instructor training to ensure that the programs are effective and impactful. Investing in community-based Mini Science Centres, learning centers, mobile labs, and libraries, organizing science fairs and interactive workshops are critical to promoting STEM education and closing the opportunity gap. These initiatives give accessible platforms to explore and develop an interest in STEM subjects, while also cultivating critical thinking and problem-solving abilities and preparing them for future job markets. India can cultivate a new generation of innovators and researchers through these programs, assuring a brighter future in science and technology.

Article written by: Ashique Ali, Sr. Specialist (Secondary and Higher Education) ChildFund India


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