Why Nobel Prizes elude India?
Why Nobel Prizes Elude India?, CHUKKA RAMAIAH
“I believe that ‘research’ at its core is realised experiences and the earlier the foundation is laid for it, the better”
Another year seems to say that all the Nobels in all fields are from countries other than ours. I question myself if it does make me sad. Yes, but I feel sadder for other things. How can we expect fruits when a tree is not well nourished and looked after right from its sprouting stage? Moreover, if we want some special and specific fruits, how can we reap them if we continue to sow some other seeds? Why don’t we realise that it is no longer the objective of schools to create a workforce for the job market; it is to awaken individual and independent thinking, conceptual understanding, comprehensive evaluation skills, and a researching attitude? I am confident that when the educational goals of the 19th and 20th century are replaced with those of the 21st century, these demands can be met.
Then we would be doing something truly worthwhile. Every nation now sees that its survival and success is linked with its research capabilities. Even a small and economically backward nation like Ghana is doing research on family planning while Qatar is now collaborating with Michigan University to do research on behavioural sciences. We know that it is important to space travel, to explore the unknown worlds , land on Mars and acknowledge that all extraordinary feats are truly appreciable and deserve to be pursued, but we must also have our feet firmly rooted on the ground, need to make all our stakeholders, all our youngsters competent ‘solutioneers’ for all our day-to-day challenges, both locally and globally, be it in health care, environmental care , economic forays, human ethics or all other areas which need to be overhauled.
While some argue that science is a search for knowledge , for truth, an end in itself and need not have any practical ends, others argue that just as ‘art for art’s sake’ is detrimental to society, science must be for society and not as an end in itself or for itself. I believe that both views are undesirable and may lead to tragic consequences if viewed and adhered to in the extreme. In any country, and more so in ours, ‘research’ must be directed towards collective well being, equity and salvaging poverty. I believe that ‘research’ at its core is realised experiences and the earlier the foundation is laid for it, the better.
Unfortunately in our schools there is a ‘brain drain’ of a different kind, not the conventional sense of intellectuals migrating and depleting the nation of potential intellectual wealth. This brain drain I refer to here is owing to our exclusively examination and marks or grades oriented system of education which leaves no scope for query, curiosity, questioning and excellence. I also stress that we need to accept the term research in a broader and wider connotation. It is now no longer restricted to mathematics or sciences.
We need analysts in all areas, in all subjects, and if our longterm needs in research should be met, the higher order thinking skills must be imbibed by the majority, as is being currently done in China and Singapore. When this research aptitude is now an essential component of education in all fields, we need to revamp our educational institutions and any expenditure therein has to be viewed as an essential and worthy ‘investment for the future’.
Basic education must develop the skill of observation and learning from the context. At the primary level , ss must be given an opportunity to observe for themselves, encouraged to describe accurately, facilitated by posing the right questions to think systematically on what was observed and thereby learn to think for themselves instead of being spoon-fed. We must not ignore the fact that seeing, perceiving, realising and intuiting are different stages in one’s grasping of essence of things and there are different stages in perception. Our ability to view and understand depends on each of these stages, and that is why it is neither uniform nor equipped/aced in many instances.
Educators must address these issues in a learnercentric style. If basic education provides the platform, if the fundamentals are well rooted, secondary education can proceed to the next step of investigation and analysis, seeking analogies, identifying contradictions and inconsistencies, probing logically and rationally to seek information responsible for the contradictions, openness and willingness to learn from mistakes and feel confident to communicate the ideas with others in a skillful manner. Last week, my trip to Basara on the first day of Dasara celebrations yielded a unique experience.
I was invited by the faculty of ‘Vasavi ‘ school in Bhaise Taluq to see how their innovative 10-day programme ‘Palle Srujana’, intended to create consciousness on the Indian rural scenario , was working. As an experiment, their students of 7th , 8th and 9th classes, around 150 of them, were divided into teams and were facilitated to visit 45 villages in all .Each team was free to survey anything of their choice. In my experience here, I found the materialization and realization of all the fundamentals of basic education.
The kids who had already done an initial survey were my guides. We visited Deshpande’s house which is a twostoreyed structure built more than 400 years ago. The children saw the documentary proof of the building’s age and ownership. They also marvelled at the aesthetic sense, the special security measures inbuilt and the strength of the structure built with mud. In times when concrete structures seem to count days before collapsing, we all felt that such monuments from the past should be protected like our ‘National heritage’.
They are not the art relics of bygone monarchs but pulsating proof of rural India’s ingenuity. When we went to goldsmith Devendrachari’s house, what touched me was the student’s concern for his health for he was inhaling hot fumes while creating wonderful gold ornaments. His pride in his ancestral vocation was truly exemplary. At Torada village, we interacted with Ganga Ram’s family, the only one from 40 families of potters to have stayed back to stick to their vocation in spite of many hardships in finding the right quality and blend of clay.
The children saw him preparing a pot and even had the thrill of sharing the experience. Their questions regarding the villagers' problems, be it here or in the other tribal villages, were genuine. It gave them more experience and hitherto unknown angles of perception of real life which no amount of classroom teaching could have substituted. They found Raju, an illiterate farmer from Havarg, devising a highly effective and economical weeding machine from his motorcycle.
While many of the students were unwilling to leave the villages even at the end of the day, this ‘Palle Srujana’ experience strengthened my conviction in the innate skills and abilities of all our students, be they from government schools or private schools. My opinions are strengthened by what many visionary educationists say. Let us invest well in education to implement the apt reforms rapidly.
15 Oct 2019 3:48 PM GMT