Government, private players are competing to prepare India for innovation, which lacks skills | So Good News


With nearly 50% of its citizens under the age of 25, India is one of the youngest nations in the world. Nevertheless, the country lags behind in innovation. According to the US Chamber’s International IP Index, India ranks 40th out of 53 countries on the Global Intellectual Property Index.

While there are several reasons why there is so little innovation coming out of India, one of them is the untapped skill (or interest) of school children. UNICEF predicts that by 2030, 50% of Indian schoolchildren will lack the skills necessary for employment. Although the employability of India’s youth has increased significantly since 2016, it is still below 50%, according to the India Skills Report 2022.

India Skills Report 2022: How Employability Has Changed Over the Years

To tap into the innovative temperament of school children, the government and the private sector are working towards increasing the participation of school children in robotics and soft skills. Private companies like Whitehat Jr. are developing solutions like teaching students to code as early as Grade 1, while the government is focusing on scientific temperament through programs like Atal Tinkering Labs. Will it end up as a mere gimmick or a genuine push to drive innovation in India? Let’s check.

Atal Tinkering Labs: Expect the unexpected

Atal Innovation Mission (AIM), NITI Aayog, was established in 2016 as the flagship program of the Government of India to promote a culture of innovation and entrepreneurship across the country. AIM claims that schools have a thorough plan to ensure the growth of inventive, problem-solving thinking. To this end, AIM has been running the Atal Tinkering Lab (ATL) for the past four years.

Government 3D printing, rapid prototyping tools, robotics, miniature electronics and more. With cutting-edge tools and technology such as ATL, ATL claims to inspire innovation and curiosity among students in grades 6-12 across the country.

According to government data, AIM has already selected 10,000 schools in over 680 districts for ATL development. The government says more than 2 million children have access to ATL and more than 7,000 schools have received funding for ATL.

So how effective is this project? To know more about this, Journal of Analytics India Contacted Prashant Sinha, Change Mentor at Atal Tinkering Lab, Delhi Public School-Naharam, Secunderabad. Sinha explained, “Any school that has access to ATL has an opportunity for students from classes 8-10 to participate in this Atal Tinkering Lab. Along with other basic things, there are tools like Raspberry Pi. Any student with an idea can participate in the lab and develop the idea.”

“Each school has a ‘mentor of change’ who is expected to guide students through the conception and development of their projects. This is a cooperative learning exercise that is usually done in classrooms to encourage students to consider and organize their thoughts. Some proposals may seem practical and can be taken to the entrepreneurial stage.”

Looking at the official figures, the project seems to be a success, but is it making any difference at the ground level? Are there any useful innovations in ATL that can be used in the real world? Sinha gave a very interesting answer to this. “People need to understand that innovation is not a particularly radical concept. Yes, sometimes there may be additional changes. The main goal of ATL is to develop critical thinking. The purpose of this project is to teach students how to develop, formulate and think about their own ideas. It would be unfair to expect a 10th grader to make an atomic bomb.”

To know more about projects under ATL, Journal of Analytics India His research approached Vinay Dharmik, a Class 12 student from Sanskarthirt Gyanpit, Surat, who recently placed in the top 75 in the ATL Space Challenge organized jointly by ISRO, CBSE and Niti Aayog.

The study, called CCDSS (Carbon Cow Sandwich Structure), is designed to protect astronauts from harmful radiation during their expeditions. These radiations put astronauts at increased risk of disease, increased lifetime risk of cancer, damage to the central nervous system and can lead to degenerative diseases.

“Creating cow dung-reinforced composites was the most challenging component of our research, as there was no scientific literature on the subject. This was the first time in history that anyone had attempted to make sandwich-structure composites using cow dung. We entered the data into the NASA-developed OLTARIS program, which yielded encouraging results in terms of radiation shielding capabilities,” explained Vinay.

Individual players: taking advantage of the opportunity

In the past few years, many for-profit “ed-tech” companies have proliferated, claiming to teach coding and robotics to schoolchildren. Most of these companies claim to be able to teach 1st graders these complex concepts. These companies charge Rs 9.5k which works out to around Rs 1.18k per lecture for a basic 8 lecture course.

(Junior Whitehat Course Outline)

One such company is BrightCHAMPS, which charges Rs 29,000 for 30 lessons for grades 1-3 (roughly Rs 1,000 per lesson).

Abhishek Sharma, Head of RoboCHAMPS at BrightCHAMPS, justified the course’s high rating. Analytics India Magazine, “We only employ as teachers those who have at least one, but in most cases, multiple degrees in robotics, automation, telecommunications, electronics, mechatronics, computer science and mechanics. We have a technology stack that allows us to meet the interests of many students and, of course, the cost of bringing eight kits with us on the trip.

When asked about the reason for teaching these courses to children above the age of 6, Sharma stated that children in the 21st century understand things quickly. “When we were in kindergarten, neither you nor I knew how computers worked. Children today know what a computer is, how it works, and how to use its various programs. So it’s easier for them to learn to code.”

“We need to stop looking at the child’s ability through our experience. They are much smarter than us,” Sharma said.

Regarding the high fees of private ed-tech institutions, Sinha said, “If a parent wants their child to learn coding or robotics through these companies, the decision depends on their financial capacity.”

“Kids can choose to subscribe to these private platforms or public platforms offered online for free, depending on their preference, it’s their choice,” added Sinha.


Government efforts can be called successful, but private startups are businesses. Atal Innovation Mission focuses not only on ingenuity of students but also on entrepreneurial skills. An interaction with Vinay Dharmik revealed that despite his school’s failure to gain access to the Atal Tinkering Lab, he participated in a competition organized by AIM and placed among the top 75 in the ATL Space Challenge.

Undoubtedly, a personal proposal creates a shift among students and increases interest. As students enter 8th grade and above, individual player recommendations become more important. These top-level courses are good, but not to mention the exorbitant fees that can sometimes be as much as an engineering student’s annual college fee! This is an area that would welcome some change.


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