CURRENT SCIENCE, VOL. 102, NO. 12, 25 JUNE 20121619
Indian science: concerns on competitiveness
The Prime Minister’s address in January2012 to the 44th Indian Science Congressstarted a debate on the overall status of Indian science
. A recent report in
speaks of excellence in space andnuclear science in India, and in institu-tions like IITs, IISc and IISERs. In spiteof this excellence, our competitors likeChina and South Korea are progressingfaster, leading to an overall gap in qua-lity and competitiveness. Thus, the wayforward is difficult, if not impossible.The mess created by the overseeingagencies like AICTE and MCI in thecase of institutions of engineering andmedicine is also in public domain. Simi-larly, the mushrooming of several uni-versities under the aegis of the stateswithout even a threshold level of infra-structure and faculty is also commonknowledge. Another concern is the fac-ulty shortage even in premier institu-tions. Recent concerns led to a realtycheck on the quality of school teachers.It was a rude shock to know that most of the teachers failed the Teachers Eligibi-lity Test mandatory under the Right toEducation Act. The very foundation of science education is crumbling. Theproblem has been further compoundeddue to tunnel-vision expansion with barestatistics in mind, bright students veeringaway from science and, essentially, satu-ration of science and education with me-diocrity. It is germane to recall that wehave the best recommendations in termsof science policy and vision statements.In spite of this, there is an overallimpression of stasis and inertia. Theproblem of mediocrity from school to thehighest level in education and researchhas been compounded by the archaicrules, regulations and bureaucracy
. Wehave a vast pool of talent which prefersto move to courses like informationtechnology and management due to alack of mentors and role-models in sci-ence in school and higher education. Wehear platitudes like creation of centres of excellence or knowledge economy atregular intervals. It is great to hear wordslike ‘innovation’, ‘creativity’ or ‘think-ing out of the box’. However, these donot mean much without action whichgives tangible results in a time-frame.Initiatives like INSPIRE fellowships havebeen started for spotting talent for scien-tific research. A regular impact assess-ment of such programmes is imperative.In the backdrop of the above scenario,the following ‘action plan’ is urgentlyneeded:
Teaching creative thinking with em-phasis on active learning rather thanpassive or learning by rote
Implementing teaching methods whereevery student participates (rather thansimply listening to the instructor)
Emphasis on creative and criticalthinking including inculcating thehabit to question, develop opinionsand the ability to think in a construc-tive way to improve upon the exist-ing methods and designs.
Encouragement at the school level totry out new things, doing things in anunorthodox manner, whenever feasi-ble and question the conventionalmethods.
Introduction of an appropriate systemof evaluation of mentors by the men-tees.
Periodic ‘health check-up’ of institu-tions by surveys on the opinion of thestudents, research scholars and fac-ulty on the issues which affect theircareer and growth and all issuesrelated to the cultivation of science.Doing science is more than doing a rou-tine job. There has to be motivation andcommitment. Thus, faculty hiring inschools and institutions of higher learn-ing is the most crucial area which needsattention
. Raghavendra Gadagkar, asociobiologist at IISc, quoted in the
, says: ‘Scores of universitiesare deteriorating or riddled with corrup-tion. They nurture few stars and areoverburdened with dead wood. On a day-to-day basis, people are discouragedfrom doing breakthrough research. Oursystem creates followers, not leaders.’ Aclear message should go by way of visi-ble action that merit alone would prevailand that the non-performers would bediscarded. The latter is needed to avoidaccumulation of scum in educational andresearch institutions. One of the ways toachieve the objective of hiring and nur-turing quality faculty is the Americansystem of tenure track
. To quote Zare
:‘In the American university system wehire faculty and then must decide withinseven years whether we want them per-manently to remain with us, namely, arethey given “tenure” or not. It is always adifficult decision as those faculty wetenure determine the
of our Department.’ Iam sure this would be one of the mostimportant steps towards achieving globalcompetitiveness.
Dharur, S., 2012;http://www.tribuneindia.com/2012/20120104/main3.htm 2.
Jayaraman, K. S., 2012;http://www.nature.com/news/indian-science-in-need-of-over-haul-1.9750 3.
Desiraju, G. R.,
DeHaan, R. L.,
Zare, R. N.,
Indian Veterinary Research Institute, Regional Station,Palampur 176 061, Indiae-mail: email@example.com
Sharing of best practices or plagiarism?
If you visit the website of Indian Instituteof Technology (IIT), Delhi
, you will findthe following vision and mission state-ments.Vision: To contribute to India andthe world through excellence in scientificand technical education and research; toserve as a valuable resource for industryand society; and remain a source of pridefor all Indians.Mission: (i) To generate new know-ledge by engaging in cutting-edge research