India now leads the world in the number of students getting bachelors degrees in Science, Technology, Engineering and Maths (STEM) subjects, the UN Conference on Trade and Development (UNCTAD) said in its latest report.
“Out of 5 million students who received their bachelor’s degrees in 2012 in STEM subjects worldwide, over 29.2 per cent were from India,” UNCTAD’s Technology and Innovation Report 2018 that was released on Tuesday stated.
The report further stated that China had a 26 per cent of the total STEM graduates, while the EU and the US trailed far behind at 9.5 per cent and 6 per cent respectively.
Using statistics from 2012, the report stated that the total number of bachelors-equivalent degrees awarded that year was 20 million.
The gap in the numbers of students graduating in STEM explains why the US depends on such a large number of foreigners, especially Indian graduates, to fill its technology workforce needs.
“Many countries are witnessing skills shortages in the fields of digital technologies and many employers report difficulties in filling high-skill vacancies,” the UNCTAD said.
According to the University Grants Commission, over 10.7 million students were studying Science, Engineering/Technology or Computer Science in 2016-17 and they made up 36 per cent of those studying in universities and colleges.
Looking to the future, the UNCTAD, in its report, said that there were indications that the educational institutions were not keeping pace with technological advances during the current transition period.
Urging the educational institutions to react with agility to the rapid pace of technology and the labour market changes, the UNCTAD, in its report, said this may require significant transformations in the education and training systems.
The UNCTAD report further said that with the widespread use of artificial intelligence and robots, the rapid technological progress needed the labour force to develop a broader range of skills, focusing on humans comparative advantage, to increase employability.
“In the new technological landscape, there is a need for generic, core or fundamental skills such as literacy, numeracy and academic skills, together with basic financial and entrepreneurial skills and increasingly, basic digital and even coding skills,” the UNCTAD report stated.