India leads the world in the number of students getting bachelors degrees in science, technology, engineering and maths (STEM) subjects, according to the United Nations Conference on Trade and Development (UNCTAD).
Of the about 5 million students who received their bachelor's degrees in 2012 in STEM subjects worldwide, 29.2 percent were from India, UNCTAD's Technology and Innovation Report 2018 released on Tuesday said.
China came next with 26 percent of the STEM graduates, the report said.
The European Union accounted for 9.5 percent of STEM graduates that year, and the US for 6 percent, the report said.
The report used statistics from 2012, the year for which it was readily available to it, and it said the total number of bachelors-equivalent degrees awarded that year was 20 million.
The wide gulf in the numbers of students graduating in STEM helps explain why the US relies on such a large number of foreigners, especially Indians, 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,” UNCTAD said citing a 2016 worldwide survey by ManpowerGroup on talent shortage that found that 40 percent of employers reported difficulties in filling positions.
According to India's University Grants Commission, 10.7 million students were studying science, engineering/technology or computer science in 2016-17, although it does not give a breakdown between undergraduate and postgraduate levels or by year of study.
They made up 36 percent of those studying in universities and colleges, UGC statistics show.
Looking to the future, UNCTAD cautioned that “there are indications that educational institutions are not keeping pace with technological advances during the current transition period.”
It urged educational institutions to “react with agility” to the rapid pace of technology and the labour market changes and said this may require “significant transformations” in the education and training systems.
With the widespread use of artificial intelligence and robots looming on the horizon, the report said that “rapid technological progress requires the labour force to develop a broader range of skills, focusing on humans’ comparative advantage, to increase employability.”
It called for broadbasing education and said, “In the new technological landscape, there is a need for generic, core or fundamental skills, such as literacy, numeracy and basic academic skills, together with basic financial and entrepreneurial skills and, increasingly, basic digital and even coding skills.”