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Easy access to technology and STEM can increase women's employability
With the Fourth Industrial Revolution and rapid technological changes poised to shape our future, Science, Technology, Engineering and Mathematics (STEM) will play an important role in the future of education and employment
With the Fourth Industrial Revolution and rapid technological changes poised to shape our future, Science, Technology, Engineering and Mathematics (STEM) will play an important role in the future of education and employment. This is especially true for women and young girls, who continue to be in disadvantageous positions when it comes to education and jobs. According to UNICEF, girls and young women aged 15 to 29 years are twice as likely as young men to be unemployed and/or not be engaged in education or training programmes. And when it comes to STEM, globally, a mere 18 per cent of girls in tertiary institutions pursue these fields, compared to 35 per cent of boys. The Covid-19 pandemic has only exacerbated this issue, leaving more girls out of the learning loop.
As the world progresses at an accelerated pace, learning to read and write cannot be the only aim of education. A STEM education has the power to help young people, especially girls, to develop skills such as lateral and critical thinking, spatial reasoning, problem-solving, engineering-design thinking, scientific inquiry and mathematics, that can be applied throughout their lives in different careers. Furthermore, it can empower women to be active participants in solving complex global challenges such as climate change, poverty and inequality, and most importantly, it can help them to advance the causes of women's health and education. By offering women enhanced and easy access to STEM education, we can give them a chance to participate actively in shaping the future.
As per the latest figures, boosting women's participation in STEM careers has the power to increase women's cumulative earnings by $299 billion over the next ten years. Hence, simply put, the cost of excluding women from STEM education is simply too high, and if we are serious about achieving progress on the multiple fronts of gender parity, employability and income mobility, women and girls must be able to access STEM education easily. In the next ten years, the Industrial Revolution will be committed to the STEM-educated woman who will be the trend-setter of the workforce. As an educational institution, the goal should be to incorporate this STEM method into the curriculum so that the students are well-informed and connected to common learning and knowledge through this multidisciplinary approach.
STEM, STEAM and STREAM
While none can deny the congruency of the 4 STEM subjects, there are quite a few who support STEAM which involves the integration of the Arts with the four pillars of STEM. While others are proponents of STREAM which includes Reading and wRiting among the core disciplines. Artistic ventures encompassing both soft and hard skills are the hallmarks of STEAM. Creativity, critical thinking and collaboration along with cohesiveness, empathy, innovation and understanding provide the humanising elements to a STEAM based education. The arts include the fine arts, liberal arts, language arts and more. STREAM is a multidisciplinary approach to education with a cross curricular framework. It categorises students into different sets depending on their learning skills. Those with similar abilities are grouped together. From STEM to STEAM and now to STREAM, education, along with the availability of accessible technology will enhance employment opportunities for women and improve their economic status.
(The author is a Vice-Chairperson, VIBGYOR Group of Schools)