Alarmed by the low percentage of women in Science, Technology, Engineering and Mathematics (STEM), the Centre has planned a programme to help girl students inculcate interest in these areas and also fund them if they get into any top institute for pursuing these underrepresented subjects, officials said on Sunday.
The programme 'Vigyan Jyoti' aims to tap 100 girl students in 550 districts from 2020-2025, the officials said. The students will be chosen based on their percentile, they added.
The initiative is likely to be launched by the end of this month, Sanjiv Mishra, Scientist with the Department of Science and Technology (DST), said. Mishra is overseeing the programme.
Data compiled by the DST shows that females comprised 24 per cent of the total pas-out students in STEM subjects in engineering, 22 per cent at the post graduate level, 28 per cent at M Phil and 35 per cent at the PhD level.
DST Secretary Ashutosh Sharma told PTI that the programme would include holding science camps for the girl students in nearby IITs, NITs and national laboratories. "It will give them the experience of what it feels like being on a campus of a premiere institute in terms of culture, motivation, interaction with scientists," he said.
The programme will cover girl students from grade 9 to 12, Sharma said. "If you look at the underrepresented areas for girls, they are engineering, mathematics, theoretical sciences, physics to some extent," he said.
Sharma said there are only 10 per cent of girls in the IITs and the number has remained static over the years. "So, we need a different kind of intervention in order to boost the numbers. They (girl students) do not see the role model and leadership in these areas and all of this has to be addressed," he said.
The programme also has financial dimension. The girls will be given a modest financial incentive to cover their additional expense like travel to camps. "It also guarantees that if the girl gets into an underrepresented area like the IIT then they would receive a fellowship," Sharma added.
The programme, he said, would also include counselling the parents of the girl students. This will assuage their concerns of getting into an underrepresented area, Sharma added. The programme envisages students' interactions with top women leaders in the area of science and technology, corporate world, universities and top institute like the DRDO.
This, Sharma said, can help them gain confidence to make a mark in these areas.