Govt aid to meritorious girls to pursue STEM courses

Govt aid to meritorious girls to pursue STEM courses

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With fewer number of girls studying physical sciences, mathematics and engineering courses, the Union Science Ministry is set to launch a programme to encourage and mentor 50,000 girl students from all over the country to pursue an academic career in such subjects in top colleges.

To be named Vigyan Jyoti, the Department of Science and Technology programme would be spread to every district where meritorious girl students in Classes 9-12 and willing to join the programme voluntarily, would be offered a supporting hand.

“If you take out medicine and bio-sciences, the presence of women is less than 10% in other disciplines of science. The situation remains the same from my days in the IIT as a student,” Ashutosh Sharma, DST secretary and a professor at Indian Institute of Technology, Kanpur, said here at an interaction with the media.

The proposed scheme seeks to address the gender gap and offers a helping hand to girls willing to study science, technology, engineering and mathematics (STEM) subjects.

“Participation would be voluntary. Those who are not going to the coaching classes can join. It will be for those who have the desire but no opportunity. The aim is to provide a level playing field to the girls,” Sharma said.

The girls will be taught on the romances of science by some of the best teachers in the district as well as by scientists from IITs and Indian Institute of Science, Education and Research. They will be exposed to facilities at science institutes and even provided with a small grant to take care of their travel expense.

Moreover, there will be interactive sessions for parents and teachers to inform them about a career in science for their wards and pupils.

The gender gap in STEM subjects is a hotly contested debate all over the world. In last 118 years, only three women received Nobel in physics including one of the winners of 2018 Prof Donna Strickland, 59, now at the University of Waterloo in Canada. Between 1963 and 2018, no women received the coveted prize in physics.

In 2005 economist Lawrence Summers, president of Harvard University provoked a furore by arguing that men outperform women in maths and sciences because of biological difference. The controversial speech is one of the reasons for which he had to resign from the post few months later.

After nearly 12 years, Alessandro Strumia, a physicist at the University of Pisa, sparked outrage in October 2018 when he claimed that women are less capable of physics research. He gave a talk at the CERN in which he said that the reason men are so over-represented in the field of physics is because they are “over-performing”, and that physics was “invented and built by men”. Within hours, CERN issued a statement describing his talk as “highly offensive”.