Indian education is undergoing a sea change. And it’s new-age edtech companies like STEM Metaverse, a Gurugram-based experiential learning platform, that are driving this much-needed change to bridge the gap between traditional school teaching methods and the rapid global shift in technology and innovation. Launched in 2020, STEM Metaverse provides multiple intelligence-based STREAMM (Science, Technology, Reading, Engineering, Art, Math, and Mental Health) learning journeys for students right from early years to class 12.
The firm’s co-founder and CEO Ritika Amit Kumar spoke to Education Post’s Rohit Wadhwaney about the direction Indian education is headed in and how women entrepreneurs are becoming a force to reckon with in the education arena.
More and more women are now entering the EdTech space, and entrepreneurship in general. What do you think has brought about this change?
Women have always held a prominent position in the education sector, particularly in Tier 1 cities where they predominate over men. In the sphere of education, women have historically held positions of leadership, demonstrating their pervasive influence. However, the fight for gender equality and women’s empowerment has picked up steam recently.
Support for diversity in leadership is rising as software businesses increasingly acknowledge the distinctive ideas and views that women bring to the industry. While women have historically occupied executive roles in the education sector, an increasing number of women are now working in tech as managers and entrepreneurs.
Women are now more able to pursue their entrepreneurial ambitions and work in historically male-dominated industries like edtech, thanks to increased access to education, resources, and support.
A key factor has been the existence of groups and networks of support for female entrepreneurs. These networks offer mentorship, direction, and resources to assist women in overcoming the obstacles of entrepreneurship and creating prosperous edtech businesses. More women are entering the edtech sector and pursuing entrepreneurial endeavors as a result of societal shifts, technical development, support networks, and a growing appreciation for the benefits of diversity. Women are making vital contributions to the STEM (science, technology, engineering and mathematics) field of education, and it is crucial to recognize this because their advancement to leadership roles is an important step in advancing diversity.
But there is no denying that fewer girls opt for STEM fields as compared to boys, at least in India. Why is this so?
There are a number of reasons why there are fewer women studying STEM fields than there are male students. The lack of early exposure to STEM subjects is one of the causes. According to studies, boys are more likely than girls to engage in STEM-related activities at home or at school. In addition, cultural biases and assumptions about gender roles have a big impact on the decision of girls to choose STEM careers.
The STEM fields are frequently perceived as being male-dominated and unsuitable for or appealing to women, which could be one cause due to cultural and societal prejudices and biases. Girls may become discouraged from studying these fields at an early age and encounter obstacles to accessing the same possibilities as boys as a result.
Unconscious gender bias in the workplace and in the educational system, as well as the perception that STEM fields demand intense competition and long hours, which can run counter to traditional ideas of women’s roles and responsibilities, are additional factors that may be at play.
Surely, some cultural and social biases are not helping in this regard. So, any solution comes to your mind?
A deliberate effort to eradicate gender prejudice in society and education is necessary to address this issue. In order to encourage girls to pursue STEM fields, friendly and inclusive learning environments must be created. In order to introduce females to female role models in STEM professions, schools, and colleges can offer mentorship programs, internships, and learning opportunities.
Parents and guardians should also encourage their girls to pursue careers in STEM fields. Girls’ confidence and enthusiasm in STEM disciplines can be increased by encouraging them to take part in after-school STEM programs and projects. In conclusion, eliminating gender prejudices and preconceptions and providing chances and resources to support their interests and talents are necessary if we want to encourage girls to pursue STEM fields.
What are the unique perspectives and experiences women can bring to the edtech space?
First and foremost, it is crucial to recognize that encouraging diversity and inclusion in executive positions benefits the tech industry as a whole. Companies may encourage innovation, creativity, and problem-solving by embracing a variety of experiences and perspectives. Men and women both play important roles in determining the direction of STEM education and motivating the following generation of leaders, inventors, and innovators.
STEM Metaverse is a remarkable womanled enterprise that was established by a group of accomplished people who are graduates of prestigious schools like IIT, IIM, and MICA. Our team is made up of a variety of seasoned mothers with considerable teaching expertise and youthful inventors full of new ideas. We are adamant that diversity in leadership is essential if the edtech sector is to create inclusive technologies and solutions that meet the different requirements of people.
Please tell us about the STEM Metaverse.
Simply put, STEM Metaverse transforms education by offering a futuristic method of instruction. As a comprehensive platform, STEM Metaverse offers a thorough STEM (science, technology, engineering, and math) learning experience to students from kindergarten through Grade 12. Our main goal is to close the gap between conventional classroom instruction and the fast-changing global environment of innovation and technology
We create STREAMM learning journeys that cover a variety of intelligence, including science, technology, reading, engineering, art, math, and mental health, with the help of our marketplace of courses, products, and teachers. We enable students to gain strategic abilities through our platform, including design thinking, problem-solving, and pattern detection. We support children in identifying and developing heir gifts and potential at a young age. We use cutting-edge technology to build individualised and immersive learning experiences, including Metaverse, Virtual Reality (VR), Web3, and Non-Fungible Tokens (NFTs). Our strategy combines interesting lessons, enlightening reading material, practical kits, instructional toys, and insightful books, all supported by cutting-edge analytics.
Students can use our platform to research a variety of career options in areas like creative writing, robotics, coding, data science, entrepreneurship, music/drama, apparel design, diplomacy, and art. We think it’s important to give children the tools they need to succeed in these various fields and prepare them for the future.
Basically, STEM Metaverse is a platform that sets itself apart with its cutting-edge method of instruction. Beyond the limitations of a conventional classroom, it offers a comprehensive educational experience that develops young brains and fosters creativity.
How did the idea of STEM Metaverse come about?
The Young Chronicle, a newspaper created particularly for children, served as the starting point of our adventure. We engaged students in participatory workshops to increase their involvement, which let us learn a lot about their perspectives and ideas. Due to the enormous popularity of these workshops, we decided to dedicate a vertical to them. We formed alliances with organizations that shared our values along the road, which helped us create a market for STEM education.
In order to provide individualised attention, our courses are led by specialists in smaller groups and are created with specific aims in mind. However, responses indicated that people thought the courses were a little pricey. As a result, we decided to design a scholarship system that would be supported by blockchain and NFT technology. With the help of this invention, students can demonstrate their talents on our platform and receive scholarships in return. We are dedicated to continually identifying methods to increase affordability and accessibility so that our platform is open to all students. Our constant goal is to make interesting, high-quality education available to all students. We work hard to foster an atmosphere where talent may flourish and where learning has a purpose. We want to offer a platform that empowers students and fosters their achievement. To do this, we will make use of cutting-edge technologies and pay close attention to the demands of our users.
STEM Metaverse has now started organizing summer camps for school kids. Please tell us about that.
Summer breaks offer teachers a fantastic opportunity to take a break and develop curriculum and classes, in addition to giving kids access to specialised activities outside of the classroom. Parents are actively looking for fun and informative activities for their kids after a year of online study because of the epidemic. Fortunately, innovative solutions are being provided to satisfy this demand through edtech platforms, both online and offline.
This exposure greatly benefits from STEM-focused experiential learning activities like robotics, programming, and art. These programs not only give kids interesting and informative experiences, but they also give schools a chance to evaluate how well they might fit into the curriculum. To include these activities in their curricula, several schools are working with active platforms and summer camps.
We provide STEM-focused programs that give kids access to a variety of fun activities through platforms like STEM Metaverse and Zoodle. With the help of Zoodle, schools may easily integrate summer camps into their curricula, whether they are delivered online or offline. Schools can improve their students’ learning opportunities and encourage a greater engagement with STEM courses by embracing such platforms.
Through interactive games, workshops, and augmented reality experiences, the summer camp blends the greatest elements of online and offline worlds with the goal of introducing children – ages 8 to 18 – to the exciting field of STEM. More pupils are able to learn specialized computer skills because of the different viewpoints and STEM-oriented mindset that both men and women bring to the field. People of all genders have a significant impact on students’ empowerment to realise their creative potential and embrace STEM education.
In just about three years since you launched STEM Metaverse, the company has already got quite a bit of international exposure. How?
We are able to offer a variety of STEM courses, content, and products because the core team at STEM Metaverse has built partnerships with more than 25 national and international organisations. Our alliances cut across geographical boundaries, from Vizag to Geneva, and include illustrious organisations like the United Nations Institute of Training and Research (UNITAR), as well as outstanding people like former robotics engineers who have moved back to their Indian hometowns. The guiding idea for us is the conviction that anyone with extraordinary subject knowledge can instruct and motivate students from different parts of the world. We seek to offer top-notch educational experiences that cross boundaries and empower students worldwide by utilising our network and various collaborations.
Please take us through your personal academic journey.
Writing instructional screenplays was the beginning of my career in education, and it finally led me to launch my own company that produces content for websites, corporate training programs, and television. I became more and more interested in researching the intersection of parenting and education as I accumulated more expertise in these fields. In 2009, as I worked towards my MBA at MICA (Mudra Institute of Communications, Ahmedabad), I used this as motivation to start Young Chronicle and AchaBacha.co.in, a social networking site for parents. These platforms were incredibly popular, and they helped me launch STEM Metaverse.
I’ve always been interested in developing a cutting-edge and interesting method of instruction that engages and motivates young students. Because of this, I firmly support the “Traffic Light Ideology,” which emphasizes giving kids the tools they need to think sequentially and discover their strengths. At first, explaining the idea of STEM Metaverse was difficult because many people were unfamiliar with it. But my team and I worked hard to raise awareness and foster trust among the stakeholders because we believed in the technology’s ability to change the game.
Despite the difficulties, we understood that only some were instantly prepared to join the STEM Metaverse. As a result, we introduced a variety of tangible products on our STEM Marketplace to accommodate various learner types who were more at ease using conventional teaching methods. However, we are still enthusiastic about pioneering the educational revolution and dedicated to assisting everyone in comprehending the advantages and opportunities that the STEM Metaverse provides students.
Any message for women who may want to get into the STEM stream?
My message to all the women out there who want to learn more about and pursue a career in STEM is this: You can do it, you deserve it, and you are needed. Although traditionally, men have predominated in the fields of science, technology, engineering, and maths, this does not imply that women do not belong there. In reality, research has shown that diverse teams perform better, and increasing the number of women in STEM disciplines can promote innovation and advancement.
Therefore, don’t let prejudice, discrimination, or a lack of representation stop you from pursuing your goals and ambitions. Believe in yourself, put in a lot of effort, and look for the advice and mentorship of other women in STEM who can help you along the way. The opportunities in STEM are limitless, so never lose sight of the fact that you can make a difference and pave the way for more women to pursue careers in these subjects. So go forth and demonstrate your abilities to the world!