The Future of Smart Learning – Embracing STEM in the Indian Classroom

Smart Village Movement, August 12, 2022

Part 1 of 2

By: Anna Fitter for Smart Village Movement in Alliance with Berkeley Haas

Smart Village Movement – Salesforce Trailblazer Lab in Sohrarim Meghalaya

STEM: Going Beyond the Science Fair

STEM is a common acronym known for its focus on Science, Technology, Engineering, and Math is a relatively new term in the Indian education sector. In some circles, it’s referred to as STEAM, which incorporates ART to blend in creativity and design elements for a comprehensive learning experience.

STEM is a redefined learning approach where separate disciplines of Science, Technology, Engineering, and Mathematics are taught in cohesion. By definition, STEM is an interdisciplinary approach that uses the overlapping of disciplines to induce practicality in the study of all sciences and mathematics and engender an interest in engineering studies.

A well-designed STEM curriculum is an upgrade from a general curriculum. Instead of treating the disciplines in isolation, it combines them for parallel development of practical skills with theory. STEM classes generally involve limited theoretical instruction from an instructor/facilitator combined with hands-on problem solving and group projects using the concepts learned. An ideal STEM learning environment is all about asking questions and encouraging independent thinking. In STEM, failure teaches students to problem-solve and is an essential part of growth.

Learners with their emergency light project as a part of Curiosity Gym’s Innovation Hub concept  at our rural Trailblazer Lab in Sohrarim, Meghalaya

Kids learning through Computers in Salesforce Trailblazer lab, Sohrarim

Why does India Need to Integrate STEM Education in Classrooms?

A robust STEM education builds critical thinkers, problem-solvers, team players, and next-generation innovators. India is one of the countries that produce the highest number of scientists and engineers at approximately 1,50,000 graduates per year, yet, the link between higher education in engineering or technology and entrepreneurship in that space is limited in India.

Worldwide, Indian engineers and scientists dominate talent and sheer employee numbers , especially in Silicon Valley tech firms. However, despite top-quality talent, the theoretical education model of our imperial past with an unbalanced focus on exams and tests has limited these students in innovation, problem-solving, and hands-on creativity. This is one of the reasons radically fewer Indian graduates go on to be entrepreneurs and innovators in the STEM field on a national or global stage. A healthy STEM ecosystem from early grades can help bridge the gap. Now, with the Government of India also focused on campaigns such as the ‘Make in India’ Innovation Mission, there is a focus on developing innovation and manufacturing right from the school years.

With a worldwide trend toward automation, Artificial Intelligence (AI), and digital technology, STEM jobs are growing faster than the number of STEM graduates. Our need for future generations educated in sciences and well-versed in digital technology has significantly boosted our interest in STEM in recent years.

Curiosity Gym’s Innovation Hub helps build STEM knowledge among learners through hands-on practical projects like this “Light House” on display

Benefits of a Robust STEM EDUCATION:

  • Helps students understand the topic better by blending theoretical knowledge with hands-on practical projects that students take pride in creating
  • Promoting teamwork, critical thinking, problem-solving, technology skills, and coding
  • Enhanced Creativity and Innovation: STEM students today are Innovators and Entrepreneurs tomorrow. STEM fields train curious individuals eager to solve the world’s most pressing problems.
  • Has practical applications to solve many challenges that impact their community, especially in rural areas where students can bring change and address rural challenges close to home.
  • Wider Career Options: The S. Bureau of Labor Statistics shows employment in STEM occupations has grown 79 percent in the past three decades. In addition, STEM jobs are projected to grow an additional 11 percent from 2020 to 2030.
  • Supports the Make in India Initiative that supports a New Mindset, New Sectors, New Infrastructure, and New Processes aimed at building India as one of the leading manufacturing hubs in the world.
  • Aligns with Atal Innovation Mission (AIM) to ‘Cultivate one Million children in India as Neoteric Innovators.

Young boy learning from online classes
Picture Source: Unsplash

Global Policy Upgrade
Incorporating STEM education in classrooms is now encouraged via policy measures by national governments. It is also supported and encouraged by corporations that invest a considerable chunk of their research budgets and CSR funds in agencies that promote it. Several organizations and think tanks, especially in North America, Europe, and Southeast Asia, have committed funding and resources to develop the STEM approach globally and supporting emerging markets like India to bring STEM to previously underserved student communities in rural areas.

In the age of smart classrooms, instructors can help students understand concepts more clearly by assimilating audio-visual information and using digital tools, gamification, and project-based learning.

India Rises to the Challenge

India is still in the early stages of this multidisciplinary approach. Still, much innovation is taking place concerning STEM education, especially in progressive urban schools. Smart Village Movement also seeks to bring these opportunities to rural communities.

Some new developments:

  1. With support from Central and State Governments, the education sector is looking beyond smart classrooms and communications technology toward hands-on learning and STEM enhancement. Initiatives to close the gender gap in the field by encouraging girls to explore STEM fields are the need of the hour.
  2. Many EdTech companies like SVM partner Curiosity Gym are working with schools to help them set up STEM centers and tinkering labs with upcoming technologies and project-based learning.
  3. The government is looking to help educational institutions with resources and schemes to upgrade the rapidly changing STEM scenario.
  4. New entry-level coding devices are coming to market that allows schools to teach simple coding and bring STEM to life in the classroom.
  5. Niti Aayog and the government are building a STEM ecosystem by establishing Atal Tinkering Labs (ATL) to foster knowledge about STEM, AI, and Robotics for K-12 students

A student with 3D Printer in Atal Tinkering Lab
Picture Source

Honorable Prime Minister Narendra Modi with young innovators
Picture Source

How is this Benefitting Rural Classrooms in Underserved Communities?

Smart Village Movement’s Rural Grand Challenge to Incorporate STEM in Rural Schools: One of the biggest challenges in implementing STEM education is to design infrastructure and curriculum and equip children with the best guidance and support. In North East India especially, there is a remarkably lower uptake of STEM careers and higher education in STEM fields than the National Averages for several reasons.

  • Around 90% of the youth are aware of only 7-9 career options out of 250 job roles.
  • Academic education quality is not up to mark in most NorthEastern Indian schools, especially in rural areas.
  • Most students then lack the basic knowledge and skills in STEM and cannot pursue the sciences stream after matriculation.

Overcoming Challenges in STEM Implementation in Rural Areas

In remote, geographically challenging, and sparsely populated states, private Edtech companies don’t find rural areas a viable market yet. That is where non-profit education organizations, Government support, and funding come in to help build social capital. Organizations like SVM facilitate pilot projects in Education by bringing in companies and helping them build a sustainable business model for the rural context with our knowledge partner UC Berkeley-Haas

  1. Lack of Teacher Training Resources and Relevant Curriculum: Investing in educating the ecosystem about such programs’ benefits is one way of overcoming these limitations.
  2. Lack of Acceptance from Educators: Many educators still think that by introducing STEM, students will get diverted from the defined curriculum and not cover requirements in that stipulated amount of time. The only way to address this is by making them aware of practical benefits for skill development and cognitive learning and changing their beliefs by showing them the positive results of introducing students to STEM learning methodology.
  3. Infrastructure Limitations: Digital connectivity, power Interruptions, and lack of facilities can limit consistency in learning and projects. A good solution is to consider alternative energy options like Solar Energy by investing in Solar panels and microgrids that provide an uninterrupted supply of shareable clean energy. Case in point:  Smart Village Movement’s Salesforce Trailblazer labs in rural Meghalaya in Sohrarim & Nongwa village are powered by our partner Hygge Energy that installed Solar Panels.
  4. Funding: Another challenge could be funding. Schools require money to construct Maker spaces, DIY (Do it Yourself Tools), project materials, and modern computers, which are some of the basic aspects of STEM education.
  5. Untapped Interest & Aptitude in Students: Most children struggle to understand the importance of science because they cannot see the connection between what they learn in the classroom and the developments in the real world. Students also perceive science subjects as either too difficult or too tedious. In rural schools especially, if children lag behind grade standards in essential reading or Math, more complex STEM topics can be daunting. Supporting the basic reading, writing, and math skills in early grades sets a good foundation.

Investing in educating the ecosystem about the need for such programs is one of the ways of overcoming these limitations.


We envision a future where quality education is made available to every child in the country.

Inspiring Children: We aim to enable and inspire all children to participate in the digital world, with a particular focus on girls and those from disadvantaged groups

Increased Access to Effective Learning: Provide access to maker spaces and learning tools for village students to quickly and effectively learn digital skills and creativity.

Open Innovation: We collaborate with Educators, Government Agencies, and Companies to facilitate and curate an exceptional learning ecosystem with modern curriculum materials, training programmes, and resources.

Support Communities of Educators and Partners: We build and support communities of educators and partners to remove the barriers to learning digital skills in underserved rural communities where no such opportunities existed before : Eg: Salesforce Trailblazer Labs, Curiosity Gym Innovation Hubs. Nav Gurukul software training programme for girls, Meraki Python Course, and IBM coding classes.

Smart Village Movement – Salesforce Trailblazer Lab in Sohrarim Meghalaya

Online Programming residential course for girls  by Navgurukul
Picture Source

Conclusion:   STEM education is the need of the hour to help students make the leap from technology users to innovators.  India needs combined support from the government and other education organizations to explore the opportunity and benefits of STEM education. We can do this together by rising to the challenge and developing a culture of application-based learning and innovation in schools and universities.

Stay tuned for Part 2 of this Blog, where we discuss the tools and resources available globally to incorporate STEM education at age-appropriate stages in school and the community.  Part 2 will also showcase the various pilot projects and initiatives undertaken by Smart Village Movement in Meghalaya in North East India.

An Engineer working on a laptop
Picture Source: Unsplash

ABOUT SMART VILLAGE MOVEMENT: The Smart Village Movement is a collaborative process facilitated by the SVM organization with the Berkeley-Haas Center of Growth Markets to create a Smart Village ecosystem. We partner with Government, Academia, Corporations, and Rural Communities to foster independence and sustainable rural development in Indian villages and other emerging markets. Our mission is to empower rural people through digital technologies and open innovation platforms to access global markets.

Online Learning Platforms
Picture Credit: Unsplash

Our focus on Open-innovation, indigenous technologies, and natural economic forces build a well-developed SVM ecosystem that empowers rural communities to provide for themselves through entrepreneurship, job skills, and access to global markets.

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