Rep. Craig Horn, R-68, along with science, technology, engineering and math (STEM) teachers from the western part of North Carolina and people from the University of North Carolina traveled to India last week to learn more about how the world’s most populous democracy delivers STEM education to its children.
India produces more engineers per capita than any other country in the world, Horn said. The school systems, from private schools to public schools have a heavy focus on STEM education.
India is home to about 1.3 billion people, according to the world population clock and is second in population to China. It is the seventh-largest country in area and while it has some of the most densely populated cities in the world, it also has jungles, prairies and wilderness.
It is an extremely diverse population, with numerous religions and ethnicities and more than 122 major languages.
Horn said he and the other people on the trip learned how the country is able to deliver education in all of these different environments. They visited schools in the major cities of Bangalore and Delhi and the Agastya International Foundation which works to teach kids living in poverty and children in rural areas.
The group sends two teachers in a van to teach STEM subjects to students in rural areas who otherwise may not have access to those subject areas.
“The impressive parts on the education front were the heavy emphasis on character development in their education system” and self-improvement programs, Horn said. He said many of the schools required yoga and everywhere he went the walls were full of inspirational quotes and encouragement for the students.
“They held their history in high regard,” Horn said. “They held up role models.”
He said the schools were filled with pictures of Indians and other people who contributed to technological advancements., in order to use them as an example for students.
Horn noticed that oftentimes, teachers would come to the students instead of having the students travel around schools. He also noticed that teachers often asked students questions instead of the “sage of a stage” style of learning. He said the teachers constantly challenged the students to stretch their brains.
“They emphasize creativity and initiative and to keep trying,” Horn said.
He also saw that the students get hands-on experience with various technological concepts and the sciences. The teachers work to get students to think through concepts instead of memorizing them.
The trip was organized by Go Global NC, which is part of the University of North Carolina General Administration, and the Burroughs Wellcome Fund, based out of Triangle Research Park.
“It was quite an experience,” Horn said of the week-long trip.