Sunday, March 29, 2015

Encourage the Next Generation of STEM Professionals

This blog post is in response to March 2015 ASQ Influential Voices topic "Encourage the Next Generation of STEM Professionals".

To start with let me include my blog post on Science, Technology, Engineering, and Mathematics (STEM) from February 14, 2012 here -

Personally, I strongly believe in nurturing math and science skills with youngsters in K-12. Once they see the value and impact of it in real life, they will continue to take interest in those subjects. 

With a strong foundation in math and science, youngsters will be equipped with necessary skills to enter engineering and technology fields. To survive and thrive in the global economy, STEM is extremely important.

Importance of STEM in India:

In 1947, after gaining independence from the United Kingdom, India needed to develop its own industries. To achieve this objective, the Indian Institute of Technology (IITs). were created. In 1951, the first IIT opened in Kharagpur in West Bengal followed by Bombay, Maharashtra (1958), Kanpur, Uttar Pradesh and Madras, Tamil Nadu (1959), and Delhi (1963). Over the years more IITs were added and currently there are 16 IITs with 10,000 seats.

In India, IITs are autonomous public institutes of higher education. They are governed by the Institutes of Technology Act, 1961 which has declared them as "institutions of national
importance", and lays down their powers, duties, framework for governance, etc. The Institutes of Technology Act, 1961 lists sixteen institutes located at Bhubaneswar, Chennai, Delhi, Gandhinagar, Guwahati, Hyderabad, Indore, Jodhpur, Kanpur, Kharagpur, Mandi, Mumbai, Patna, Ropar, Roorkee and Varanasi. Each IIT is an autonomous institution, linked to the others through a common IIT Council, which oversees their administration. The IITs award degrees ranging from B. Tech. to Ph.D. The IITs have a common admission process for undergraduate admissions. It was called IIT-JEE, which was replaced by Joint Entrance Examination in 2013.

In April 2014 over 1,356,000 students appeared for JEE (Main) of which 128,000 qualified for JEE (Advanced) competing for 10,000 seats in 16 IITS (overall 0.74% Admit rate, which is much tougher than prestigious schools in the US). Those who could not get into IITs, go to 30 National Institutes of Technology (NITs) and other engineering colleges.

These centrally funded IITs are heavily subsidized (80%) by the Indian Government. Graduates from the IITs have spread out globally making outstanding contributions in engineering, science, and allied fields.

I was fortunate to study chemical engineering at the Banaras Hindu University (BHU) now 16th IIT (BHU), Varanasi. After my B. Tech., I joined the Illinois Institute of Technology in Chicago to complete my graduate work with M.S. and Ph.D. in chemical engineering. After working for few years in the industry, I realized the value of business education and obtained my MBA in marketing management from the Keller Graduate School of Management in Chicago. I personally believe engineers need to understand business aspects to make bigger contributions. Hence, exposure to business courses during engineering studies is beneficial to both industry and the individual.

In summary, in India there is a national mandate to develop STEM professionals by providing opportunities through education funded by the Government. With this STEM emphasis, India has achieved a top place in information technology field.

I came across an article from Harvard Business Review (March 24, 2015) by Joan C. Williams entitled "The 5 Biases Pushing Women Out of STEM". The article is talking about biases, and not pipeline issues or personal choices, pushing women out of science - and that bias plays differently depending on a women's race or ethnicity.

I look forward to your personal experience with STEM.

1 comment:

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