Sunday, February 19, 2012
STEM Education for Better Quality of Life
Paul Borwaski has an amazing talent to pop the right question at the right time. Being CEO of the American Society for Quality (ASQ) does help, I guess. This month, on his blog, View from the Q, Paul has posed a very timely question around education in STEM – science, technology, engineering, and mathematics. This is timely because across the world young students appear to be moving away from STEM to counting money. Not realizing, it is more fun making things that make the money than counting them!
There is no greater thrill than building that bridge across the river that will help 1000s reach their villages faster, building that spaceship that will explore our galaxy, develop that medicine which will cure cancer and AIDS, solving age-old mathematics problems that may pave the way for lightning fast communications, building the technology that will make the next Avatar movie, building the next ride at Disneyworld. And the list is endless.
Why are students moving away from STEM? Or why aren’t more of them studying STEM?
I don’t like to play the blame game. But I am tempted to blame governments and parents. Governments across the world have done precious little to promote education in STEM. Most governments are busy tumbling from one scandal to another and don’t have the time to think about what needs some thinking. It doesn’t help of course, that most governments that matter don’t have a single engineer or scientists as a minster!
Parents because kids look up to their parents and if we don’t appreciate science how would our kids do so? My elder son is 10 now and I find that he is very inclined towards arts, which is good. But I am convinced that if I don’t expose him to the sciences I won’t ever know if he could be the one to put a man in the next solar system? I am doing what I can and want to do more to keep him interested. Then it’s upto him.
What is being done in India about STEM? Little. I have a problem when everyone wants to build software. Sure we need software, but what good is software if heaps of science problems are un-solved. Yes, the Indian Institute of Science and Indian Institute of Technologies have done a good job. But a lot more needs to be done if we have to make a mark on the global science map.
India has had some notable Nobel prizes in Science but curiously, all of them came from Scientists not working in India. That tells us something. We don’t have a system that supports research. I don’t know what can help us. I am sure there are more qualified people who know.
What can I do? I can make sure I encourage kids to take up STEM. If you do the same too there will be enough parents encouraging kids. And we can move the mountain.