Home arrow Archives arrow Open Forum arrow Open Forum-2011 arrow Science Education:VITAL TO EQUIP YOUTH, by Dhurjati Mukherjee, 17 Feb, 11
News and Features
INFA Digest
Parliament Spotlight
Journalism Awards
Science Education:VITAL TO EQUIP YOUTH, by Dhurjati Mukherjee, 17 Feb, 11 Print E-mail

Open Forum

New Delhi, 17 February 2011

Science Education


By Dhurjati Mukherjee


The Union HRD and Science and Technology Minister Kapil Sibal made a significant announcement at the 98th Indian Science Congress held recently. Whereby, he underscored that ‘Navratna’ Universities on the lines of US’s famous Ivy League varsities would be set up. These would be free from the shackles of Government control and have total autonomy. Not only that. He announced that powers are also being bestowed to the Boards of the existing Navratnas, IITs and IIMs, to make them world class.


Clearly, the Government has been serious about spreading higher education in science and technology and ensuring a quantum increase in the gross enrolment ratio which is presently a mere 15 per cent. In fact, the Union Science and Technology Ministry is planning to create institutions that will seek to usher in a new model for post-graduate education by drawing into government laboratories.


The Council of Scientific & Industrial Research (CSIR) is all set to open 37 laboratories for students to pursue masters and doctorate programmes in the sciences under the Academy of Scientific and Innovative Research to be established soon. Undoubtedly, this is a positive gesture to encourage students to take up higher education and research in basic and allied sciences.


According to the CSIR Director General the Council expects to take in around 1000 science Ph. D students, 125 engineering Ph. Ds, 1000 masters and 100 M. Tech. students through a combination of research and lessons. Wherein, the students while studying would also get to work on real-world research problems. For instance, students who join CSIR’s Central Electronics Engineering Research Institute, Pilani might get to work on space and satellite projects.


Importantly, the decline in the number of Ph. D students has been worrying the Government for quite some time as India lags far behind most countries. The numbers have remained static at around 5000 Ph. Ds for science and engineering for several years (till around 2008). Given that at one time India with 11,177 scientific papers was ahead of China (10,157 papers). But in 2005, China with over 53,000 overtook India with less than 20,000 papers.


Worse, the number of students opting for science has drastically reduced. In 1950, students opting for science at the under-graduate level comprised about 32 per cent. The figure now is around 16-20 per cent though enrolment for post-graduate courses is a little higher. According to the University Grants Commission (UGC), the dropout rate among science research fellows qualifying the NET is also fairly high.


Realizing the imperative need to give a boost to science education and attract more students in this field, the Scientific Advisory Council to the Prime Minister is now expected to become a reality. While a few new institutes of science have already been set up, some more are in the offing.


The proposals come with hefty price tags: Rs 500 crores for each institute and Rs 1000 crores for the National Science & Engineering Board (NSERB), modelled on the lines of the National Science Foundation (NSF) of the US, to fund basic research in the universities. The obvious goal is to inject more money into science, create more centres of excellence and gear up the pace and quality of basic and applied research.


Perceptibly, the current emphasis is on basic sciences which, over the years, have not received the attention it deserved even compared to technical education. Recall, the National Knowledge Commission (NKC) had recommended setting up of the National Science & Mathematics Commission to achieve the target of making India a hub of scientific knowledge and encourage research. .


Needless to say, there is need at this juncture to set up more universities, to start with at least one in every State exclusively devoted to the study of science so that more and more students get an opportunity to get higher education in its various and emerging fields. Research in these institutes should also be encouraged with special emphasis on applications in areas like space research, advanced agricultural science, meteorology, biotechnology, nanotechnology and various facets of environmental science.


Apart from this, there is need to upgrade colleges. At least one in every district should be taken up every year to impart courses in specialized and emerging fields of science and technology. Even integrated post-graduate courses in one or two disciplines could be started.  


The idea behind spreading higher education in science and technology is the need to build up a scientific community capable of undertaking sophisticated research in specialized fields. As the country is poised to become a super power, it is all the more imperative to achieve breakthroughs in scientific research in unexplored fields for which education has to be spread all over the country and motivate the young generation in this regard.


Shockingly, though our science and technology policy advocates pubic-private partnership in research, the industry’s contribution remains just a mere 20 per cent as compared to around 70-80 per cent in advanced countries and 40 per cent in China. It is indeed intriguing why the Indian private sector has been unable to contribute to science education and research compared to their counterparts in other countries.


Except for the Tata group and one or two others in the pharmaceutical sector, the contribution of even the market leaders in industry towards research has been quite poor. Plainly, the private sector needs to be encouraged to set up scholarships for research in science or at least start their own universities with proper facilities of research.


In sum, with the demand for higher education increasing, development of scientific education and research in sophisticated fields is vital at this juncture if the country is to grow in a big way.  True, a serious approach in this regard has already been initiated and expected to reach the rural areas to provide science and technology education to the masses. It is also encouraging to note that 2012-13 has been designated as the ‘Year of Science’ by the Prime Minister. But the taste of the pudding is in its eating! ----- INFA


(Copyright, India News and Feature Alliance)

< Previous   Next >
  Mambo powered by Best-IT