PYTHON for an average school-goer is a species of snake. Not any more. Government school students will soon explain that PYTHON is a high-level programming language that also forms the basis of data analysis.
Coding, digital literacy, emerging technologies such as AI and machine language and life skills have entered the government school curriculum in some states.
IBM through a MoU with three state governments — Karnataka, Telangana and Andhra Pradesh — has launched STEM education as a new subject in the timetable for girl students.
This multi-year programme for students of classes IX to XII is being implemented with the help of IBM’s partner organisations who, through a structured curriculum, will work to arouse interest among students about skills and careers in science, technology, engineering and math.
“It’s a holistic programme where we work with teachers, schools heads, parents and students to make them aware about STEM and why it is the future of work,” says Rumi Mallick Mitra, Head, CSR India, IBM.
To cite an example: Under ‘Gender’, a chapter is aimed at encouraging children to engage with their parents on various stereotypes. Through group discussions and debates, children would be nudged to speak about differences they see around them.
STEM is the new corporate investment for many companies as various studies have said that there is a shortage of talent in STEM related careers due to disparity between school, college curricula and industry expectations.
There is also the challenge of girls dropping out of schools, so many are not oriented to skills and careers in these streams.
Rumi says the programme has been structured keeping in mind the present and futuristic needs of students and the industry. For example, computational thinking and coding will be taught under technical learning. Understanding of gender and life skills and career design are other important aspects of the syllabus. “In the latter, students will be made to visualise a career and explained how to go about it.”
IBM associates would also be involved. “We will be having IBM volunteers as mentors and role models for students to learn from them directly,” she adds.
Addressing dropout rate is one challenge for corporates working with government schools, especially in rural areas. “We are not looking at the outcome of the programme in one year. For us, the biggest achievement is ensuring students come to school. Successful participation is an indication that students are interested,” explains Rumi.
Others in STEM
WomenInTech, an industry forum facilitated by Royal Bank of Scotland (RBS), works with various corporates, academia and NGOs to encourage young girls to take up careers in STEM. Their corporates chapters has been reaching out to schools and colleges. They also extend financial support to meritorious girls.
Mastercard is addressing the gender gap and has been reaching out to students through its platform, ‘Girls4Tech’. Mastercard employees are engaged as role models and mentors, where they showcase the company’s payment technology and demonstrate the value of STEM-related subjects and careers through various fun, discovery-based exercises.
Emerson works in partnerships with more than 350 universities and technical colleges in Pune, Chennai and Mumbai to promote STEM skills and careers. It has also partnered with not-for-profit organisation Masoom and its night school programme in Mumbai to provide support for short-term and long-term skill development.