This Education Program is Helping 1.5 Lakh Govt School Students Build Careers in STEM
Brillio and STEM Learning are establishing science labs and distributing kits in 900 government schools, empowering more than 1,50,000 children via their National STEM initiative.
This article is written in collaboration with Stem Learning and Brillio
The world is increasingly becoming digital, with Artificial intelligence (AI) taking over tasks ranging from physical labour to intellectually demanding jobs traditionally performed by humans. The US National Science Foundation (NSF) predicts that 80 percent of the jobs created in the next decade will require proficiency in maths and science.
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This demands that our education system, particularly in government schools, prioritises instilling STEM (science, technology, engineering, and maths) to encourage critical thinking and problem-solving skills in children. It requires teachers to emphasise practical learning through experiments, rather than focussing on memorisation.
Brillio, a digital transformation services and solutions provider, has been running a National STEM programme in collaboration with STEM Learning, a social enterprise dedicated to promoting STEM education among school students.
Since 2019, they have been hosting the National STEM Challenge, a national competition open to students from government and government-aided schools nationwide as part of their CSR initiative, ‘Bringing Smiles’.
What sets this programme apart is the fact that it’s not just a one-time competition, but works throughout the year with students. They achieve this by establishing science and math labs for practical learning and providing science kits to enhance students’ understanding of key concepts.
Igniting curiosity in young minds
Work for the National STEM Challenge begins at the very start of the school year, explains Abhishek Ranjan, Global Head – Sustainability, ESG, Brillio.
“We set up science labs at government/government-aided schools with STEM Learning. Next, we set up a science club under the supervision of the science teacher. We also have Brillio volunteers and STEM Learning staff who visit the schools and teach the children,” Abhishek tells The Better India.
Throughout the year, students participate in various engagement events. They attend weekly sessions led by STEM ambassadors who share their passion for STEM, offer practical tips and ideas, and demonstrate how these subjects can make a difference.
Experts from the four disciplines deliver lectures, highlighting the application of science in their respective careers. Additionally, over 100 Brillio volunteers also engage with students each week through stories and quizzes, and help them build STEM models using Brillio Science DIY kits.
The idea is to foster curiosity, innovation and critical thinking skills among students from classes 6 to 10, adds Abhishek.
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Ashutosh Pandit, founder of STEM Learning, says that they want students in government schools to have access to the same resources as private school students so that they too can excel in these fields.
“We work at a grassroots level to enable students to pursue a career in science. Many have a phobia of science due to a lack of conceptual clarity. So we enable teachers to connect with students better through our teaching aids. We help them learn through experiments. Our science labs are innovative and interactive with a hands-on approach to facilitate the learning process,” he says.
STEM learning sets up mini science centres, which consist of 80 plug-and-play science and maths models. Students can understand the concepts through observation. They also set up tinkering labs, which help them develop skills and build solutions.
“Instead of teachers explaining concepts on the blackboard, learning through practical experiments helps students learn better. Science should not be taught on a rote basis, it should be hands-on teaching,” adds Ashutosh.
Building lakhs of future STEM leaders
Once the science labs are set and the concepts are taught over the first six months of the academic year, the cluster-level competitions of the National STEM Challenge begin. This is followed by zonal levels and the finale. The competitions include science and mathematics model competitions, technology and maths quizzes, and engineering tinkering.
The finale, which took place in Pune on 9 September, 2023, according to Brillio, was attended by more than 130 students and 40 teachers from 20 schools across 13 states.
“These students competed in over 70 cluster, zonal, and state-level rounds. The top 50 teams comprising more than 100 students from 13 states ─ Maharashtra, Karnataka, Jharkhand, Assam, Delhi, UP, Haryana, West Bengal, Chhattisgarh, MP, Telangana, Rajasthan, and Tamil Nādu ─ made it to the national finale,” says Abhishek.
Over the years, he says, they have reached around 1,50,000 children across over 900 schools.
Yasin Ansari, a teacher at the Netaji Hindi Vidyapith ME School, Bongaigaon, Assam, says that the level of education has improved, thanks to these STEM mini-science centres. “Even during the lockdown, I was able to teach the students online through the material at the science centre. I also used to go teach students at their homes on Sundays through these practical kits,” he adds.
For many of the students and teachers, this was also their first time outside their states and their first flight!
Suchitra K, a student at Government High School, Konappana Agrahara, Karnataka, says, “Participating in the National STEM Challenge has been an incredible journey for me and my friends. It has shown us that no dream is too big when it comes to solving real-world problems. This competition has not only broadened our horizons but also ignited a lifelong passion for innovation and learning. We are deeply grateful to Brillio, STEM Learning, and our mentors for this experience. With the skills and knowledge gained here, we feel ready to take on the world and contribute to the ever-evolving field of science and technology.”
Bridging the government school-private school gap
Brillio hopes to reach 10 lakh students by 2030 and equip them through STEM education.
“Our primary focus is to develop conceptual understanding and help children acquire skills that will prepare them for global careers, as well as life. STEM is the future and most of the careers would be in these fields. We want to equip government school students and bridge the learning gap,” says Abhishek.
Brillio is also running a STEM for Girls programme in which they provide a tablet-based education programme for girls — to work on the gender disparity in STEM careers. “The intake of women in STEM programmes in colleges is low. To help more women join these courses, we are giving them scholarships and tablets. We’ve given this tablet-based education programme to over 200 female students last year,” adds Abhishek.
Brillio also provides scholarships and mentorship to meritorious government school students to pursue coaching for IIT JEE/CET/NEET etc. Around 21 Brillio Leaders mentor the students one-on-one to prepare for the exams.
“We want to bridge the gap between government and private school students. This will enable students to grow up and become self-sustainable, and help them have a better life. Two-thirds of the students in our country study in government schools and must be given the same platform to grow,” he adds.
Two students who received Brillio education scholarships were among the top scorers in the board exams in Karnataka in 2020 and 2021. Brillio also states that their initiatives have led to improved school attendance, active classroom and co-curricular participation, enhanced learning outcomes, digital literacy, and conceptual clarity in grade-specific subjects.
For the students and teachers, it’s a chance at a better tomorrow. “Children are really motivated to learn now. Seeing the achievements of our winners this year, other students in the school are now geared to participate next year. The level of education has gone up significantly,” says Yasin Ansari.
Edited by Pranita Bhat
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