Vice President calls for bridging gender divide in STEM-related employment

SansadTV Bureau

The Vice President of India, Shri M. Venkaiah Naidu, today said that while India produces the highest percentage of women STEM graduates in the world (about 40 percent), their share in STEM jobs in India is very low at 14 per cent and needs to be improved. He further added that under-representation in post-graduate and doctoral studies too needs to be rectified expeditiously.

In this regard, Shri Naidu noted that the Government’s efforts in improving the number of girl students in IITs has led and said their number went up from just 8 percent in 2016 to nearly 20 percent now. He also appreciated the Department of Science & Technology’s ‘Women Scientists Program’ as a laudable initiative that encourages women to take up careers in science and maths. He said that we must celebrate our women scientists and create role models for the girl child in the field of science.

Speaking at the Institute of Mathematical Sciences (IMSc), Chennai, the Vice President spoke about the trends in STEM and how we can tap the potential of the data science revolution in job creation. Shri Naidu observed that data has changed the way business is done and that we must look beyond our traditional engineering curriculum to equip our young graduates with these new skill-sets. This way, we must remain relevant to the current demands of the industry, he added.

Expressing his happiness at the proliferation of distance education courses offered by national institutes like IITs, he wanted technical courses to be offered in regional languages to benefit more number of students.

Stressing the importance of making science education available in local languages, the Vice President said that it will help students in understanding the subject better and will help in innovation. Stating that no language should be imposed or opposed, he called upon the people to learn as many languages as possible but give primacy to the mother tongue.

Speaking about the importance of mathematics and India’s rich legacy in the subject, Shri Naidu referred to the invaluable contribution made by the great Indian mathematician Srinivasa Ramanujan. Calling for unearthing hidden talent among children, the Vice President underlined that there was no dearth of talent among children and that it was important to find and nurture the talent.

Praising the scientists who made the indigenous Covid-19 vaccine possible, Shri Naidu called it a big leap in science for India. The Vice President also said that he feels confident about the future of the nation because of the tremendous efforts being put by our scientists and the enthusiasm of young researchers. He was of the view that the purpose of all R&D is betterment of the people’s lives.

Referring to the ongoing Covid-19 pandemic, the Vice President highlighted the need to respect nature. He cautioned that climate change is real and its negative impacts will affect our lives. Emphasizing the need to live in harmony with nature, Shri Naidu called upon the people to adopt a healthy lifestyle by practicing Yoga and eating properly cooked & nutritious food.

Shri Naidu also expressed concern over the increasing tendency of overusing the mobile phone among the youngsters as this causes unnecessary distraction. He also said that for overall growth and development of the students, schools need to include activities like Yoga, gardening and social work in their curriculum.

Observing that many children get intimidated by mathematics and develop fear and anxiety at the prospect of learning the subject, he urged educators to substitute the practice of rote memorization with creative methods and hands-on activities to make children friends with numbers, Shri Naidu urged.

In order to achieve this, the Vice President suggested that the provisions of New Education Policy should be fully capitalised and pedagogical changes be brought into primary education. He added that a strong foundational STEM must be complemented by encouraging children to take up careers in science. He also urged the private sector to partner with academic institutes to strengthen STEM research.

The Vice President appreciated the efforts of IMSc in furthering quality fundamental research, particularly its involvement in India-based Neutrino Observatory (INO),the mega-science project. He expressed confidence that this ambitious project will elevate India’s global position as a leader in scientific research.

Shri Naidu also appreciated the institute for undertaking science outreach programs in Tamil Nadu and stressed that the need of the hour is to inculcate scientific temper in people, especially in children.

On this occasion, the Vice President also virtually inaugurated the New Residential Wing of the IMSc at DAE Nodal Centre, Pallavaram, Chennai.

Tamil Nadu Minister for Higher Education, Shri K.P. Anbalagan, Prof. V. Arvind, Director, IMSc, Dr. Arun Kumar Bhaduri, Director, IGCAR, Dept. Of Atomic Energy, Kalpakkam, Smt. Selvi Apoorva, Principal Secretary to Government, Higher Education Department, Tamil Nadu, Shri S Vishnu Prasad, Registrar, IMSc, students and staff were present on the occasion.