Charu Noheria, Co-Founder and COO, Practically

In 2018, Charu Noheria co-founded Practically, an experiential learning app for STEM and has been working to revolutionize the education landscape for the last seven years. Practically’s constant innovation to improve the rate of retention of concepts among students has helped the platform raise $14M so far. Charu has a bachelor’s degree in engineering (Computer Science) from R.V. College of Engineering, Bangalore, and an MBA from the University of Illinois-Urbana Champaign. She has over 12 years of corporate experience in operations, technology, strategy and managing global teams.

 

Science has always been an integral part of human existence that has contributed to progress and new discoveries. From entertainment to education, science and tech have made remarkable strides to grow various sectors through digitization. At present, the world is massively dependent on technology, and creating a skilled and well-educated talent pool is important for a nation’s progress.

Education specific to this discipline is called STEM education. The four disciplines of STEM (Science, Technology, Engineering and Math) are the four pillars of our economy and will play a crucial role in preventing any future crisis. At a primary and secondary level through STEM education, students learn facts and a method of thinking that can be applied to solve real world problems.

STEM learning is not just technical but extremely creative in its own way. It also accelerates entrepreneurship and the global start up culture bears testimony to it. Smart gadgets have created a world of apps and each app is a solution provider as well as an organization that is creating more employment and contributing to the growth of the country, many of them have turned into listed companies and successful ventures.

In India, students and parents have always relied on STEM given the high chances of employment and growth. This, however, has been usually limited to university learning, and at most times, many students opt for these subjects without understanding their aptitude for the right discipline and most have had weaker foundations making the entrance exams and even the course curriculum difficult to cope with.

It is a necessity to introduce children to STEM early on and not wait until college or university to have them familiarized with terms like coding, websites etc. Our children are exposed to mobile devices and voice assistants from an early age, so it is only natural for them to have many questions regarding this technology. Subjects such as Robotics, Coding, Artificial Intelligence etc. that were unheard of many years ago are now being introduced early on and the edtech industry has been a great enabler in doing so.

Bringing STEM to every classroom is the first step toward enabling science and tech literacy. Select edtech platforms have worked on creating AI led models that breathe life into STEM learning for students. Through these mediums, every student, despite their academic history, can create a positive relationship with STEM. The new National Education Policy of India (2020-21) has made coding an important part of the curriculum. This makes it all the more important for schools and teachers to introduce the right tech infrastructure and school solutions that will equip the faculty and the students with necessary tools. Deploying AI and AR for STEM education will play a very important role. Digitization in schools shouldn’t be perceived as an expenditure but an investment that is bound to yield stronger results than expected.

The important thing is democratization of STEM, especially in nations like India. The vision is to have every child irrespective of their economic background gain accessibility to STEM. We are aware that several schools in metros and towns, may not have the required manpower or the technical support for carrying out research and there are schools where access to STEM education remains a challenge. It is noteworthy that corporate giants such as Maruti Suzuki and Ford have come forward to fund STEM education and adopt schools as part of their CSR initiatives that have helped over 500,000 students and 15,000 academicians across 20,000 schools with funds raised worth over Rs 20 crores.

The Indian Government has also been extremely supportive of this initiative. Early this year, the Government launched a national portal called I-STEM that hosts a gamut of scientific activities and programmes. The initiative was also a part of the ‘Swayam’ initiative of the government to help guide skill-building and developing modules in academic institutions in utilizing a range of technological equipment. The portal also helps build an ecosystem that can foster R&D. India has already seen a tectonic shift with a range of homegrown solutions, businesses and startups through the ‘Make In India’ initiative and now this will further help positively shape our economy in years to come.

For discerning parents, who are wondering how they can help children adapt to STEM faster. They can definitely look at the right apps and even the ongoing summer or extracurricular. workshops that will help children learn these subjects while having fun. The key is to help them enjoy these subjects and not pressurize them to learn via the rote method. Eventually children will pick up these subjects when they are having fun while learning.

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