New Data Science Program Engages Youth in Social Issue Action, ISF and NetApp Partner to Inspire Students in Bengaluru

India STEM Foundation

Data is everywhere. With data being created at unimaginable rates, it is the new driving force across all aspects of society.  Data inarguably holds the potential to unlock the hidden knowledge to solve pressing problems of the 21st century for a better future.

Data Science, which involves statistics, mathematics and computer science, enables us to discover patterns and relationships in large datasets that lead to actionable insights and strategic decisions for business, policy making and social impact. Data fluency in the workforce is a critical growing need and hence preparing youth to acquire these skills early in life is urgent.

To address this need, the India STEM Foundation and data management company NetApp joined together to create NetApp Data Explorers to empower teens to thrive and take action in a data-driven world. 

NetApp Data Explorers started with 99 students from 7th to Grade 10th and eleven school teachers from three schools in the Bengaluru, India. Each student went through 24 hours of learning that focused on core data science concepts, building skills and fluency. The students were inspired to explore, investigate and solve problems with data by focusing on social issues that are relevant in their lives and their communities in alignment with UN Sustainable Development Goals.

Data Explorers students in under-resourced communities learning from their homes

Students were introduced to a data analysis tool, called CODAP (Common Online Data Analysis Platform), developed by Concord Consortium in the US. Students were engaged via data-driven games and activities, taught to question and analyze data through the creation of visualizations.  Students then worked in teams to solve problems and share their stories of how they applied their new skills.

Hands-on Data Science Classes on CODAP

Multiple data sets were used related to the UN Sustainability Goals, including how to address poverty, what actions can be taken to combat climate change, how can we ensure inclusive and equitable quality education, and how to make cities and human settlements safe, resilient and sustainable. Students worked in teams along with NetApp employee volunteers. Volunteers offered support and shared how they use data in their diverse careers. Students learned that any job in the future will require some level of data literacy.

Pre and post surveys were conducted with students to measure Data Efficacy, Data Attitudes, and Social Efficacy. The analysis of the surveys revealed that 94% of students were able to confidently discuss data science as opposed to only 46% students at the beginning of the program. Also, 74% students were able to deliver insights from the data as compared to 28% students who initially lacked understanding of datasets, patterns relationships and insights for decision-making.

Data Science is a new topic to learn for the children. Hence, the curriculum was developed in the manner that students were exposed to different datasets to practically understand multiple application areas. After the awareness session, students were very excited and eager to learn this subject and the new tool. The enthusiasm remained throughout the classes, as students were constantly engaged in dialogues with the mentors whilst solving hands-on challenges.

Unlike a physical classroom, delivering the program virtually over Zoom was challenging. With 25 students per class, we learned it was difficult for students and educators alike. In order to be able to support students at the level required, we believe small groups (8) would be more effective.

We also observed that students with access to computers or devices that have a keyboard, and a mouse had more effective learning. However, dealing with students who lack basic resources is a standing limitation which could be overcome by providing them with more devices such as tablets, laptops and ensuring a stable internet connectivity.

The program was kept open to teachers from all backgrounds however from a program delivery perspective, Computer and Mathematics Teachers were the best fit for this program. This is because these teachers have developed the reasoning and aptitude to solve problems and are already leveraging algorithms in their subject.

The future of such programs is promising, and our recommendation is to focus on an inclusive school curriculum approach. It is important that the school leadership have a progressive mindset, are keen to embrace the rapid changes in the world and introduce students to the areas beyond their school curriculum. Since our program implementation and recognizing the need for students to be data driven, CBSE, the largest education board in India, in year 2021 started offering Data Science to school students across India as a skill-based subject. It is expected that this will expedite adoption of Data Science as a subject by a large number of schools in India, and in future would lead to inclusive school curriculum approach where learning and exposure to Data Science will be required for all. For this to happen and benefit masses, corporate support is important. India STEM Foundation would like to invite corporates to come forward, like NetApp, and participate in preparing the workforce of tomorrow through their active volunteering, execution, and resource support.

About India STEM Foundation

India STEM Foundation (ISF) is one of the early players in the STEM education ecosystem in India. Through hands-on software and hardware intervention mediums, ISF has reached out to 5,00,000+ students to help them acquire the most crucial 21st century skills.

About NetApp

NetApp is a global cloud-led, data-centric software company that empowers organizations to lead with data in the age of accelerated digital transformation. The company provides systems, software and cloud services that enable them to run their applications optimally from data center to cloud, whether they are developing in the cloud, moving to the cloud, or creating their own cloudlike experiences on premises. With solutions that perform across diverse environments, NetApp helps organizations build their own data fabric and securely deliver the right data, services and applications to the right people—anytime, anywhere.