Resurgence of Science Education

Highlights

Resurgence of Science Education, Indian Institutes of Science Education and Research. Science and Technology do not progress as depicted in Fiction and Myths. They are to be cultivated over a period of time.

The spirit built in India over a period of time is now destroyed with apathy and neglect due to the attitude of some of our leaders that C N Rao deliberately attacked. Rao was hitting not just at the inadequate allocation of funds for R and D in our budget but, insentient and the business-like approach to science by the establishment.

The conferring of Bharat Ratna on C N Rao, the prolific chemist would not have taken note of by the media, but for his derisive remarks on our leaders. It may also be due to the effusive attitude of some media houses who thought that it would rebound if Rao is not given space when his co-recipient Sachin whose image building and brand value was systematically nurtured by them. Unlike Rao, Sachin never bothered about national or social morals even at the peak of IPL scam. However, the elite game and its promoters are given their due. C N Rao needs to be congratulated here not necessarily for his achievements in Solid State and Structural Chemistry, but for selecting the occasion to make the provocative statement that shook the establishment.

C N Rao, Chairman of Science Advisory Council to the Prime Minister was responsible for the establishment of Indian Institutes of Science Education and Research and is propagating scientific temper among students and laymen alike. He is known for his 1500 papers, an H-Index of 100 and training around 160 Ph D students during his long span of productive research career. He got his Ph D from Purdue University, USA and never wished to settle there. As Director of IISc, Banglore he maintained high standards and is continuing to serve on the faculty even at the age of 80. This shows his commitment to science education. But, there are luminaries like late T R Seshadri, Professor of Chemistry, brought by C R Reddy and encouraged by Sarvepalli Radhakrishnan at Andhra University in the 1930s. He laid the strong foundation for science education in India, later invited by the Delhi University in 1949. The solid work done by him at Andhra University produced great scholars and scientists like Gopala Rao, B R Rao (Phy) M N Sastry etc and left a science education legacy in our State.

Rao, never minced words and is centre of some controversies. The social scientists complain that it is difficult for a Research Supervisor to guide a dozen dissertations in a life time while physical scientists manufacture hundreds of papers and dissertations with the support of team of scholars in a year sitting in cosy Labs (lighter vein). All of them claim authorship. Rao was accused of plagiarism of reproducing an article from a Scientific Journal in 2011 (The Hindu, 10 March 2012). He has immediately responded to this allegation with apologies indicating his spirit of rectitude. It is exactly here Economists are whispering that if Nobel is not a criterion to attain Bharat Ratna (like Amartya Sen), C Rangarajan, Chairman, Prime Minister’s Economic Advisory Council (with equal competence and controversy) deserves this title.

Science education was promoted by J C Bose, Meghnad Saha, Raman and others before Independence along with Jawaharlal Nehru avowedly championing the principle of scientific temper as a value. Nehru has prepared the ground for modern scientific and technological development in the country by establishing IITs, promoting industrialisation and Chairing annual conferences of Indian Science Congress. Later Article 51-A was incorporated as a fundamental duty “to develop the scientific temper, humanism and the spirit of enquiry and reform”. The spirit built in India over a period of time is now destroyed with apathy and neglect due to the attitude of some of our leaders that C N Rao deliberately attacked. Rao was hitting not just at the inadequate allocation of funds for R and D in our budget but, insentient and the business-like approach to science by the establishment.

Science and Technology are considered not only essential for progress and development, but they are critical for human survival. One cannot take the risk of dependent development based on Technology transfer through trade. They are always risky for the host countries as experienced by some of our neighbours. In this context, the strategy of scientific advancements carried by China and its achievements in a short period of time are exemplary. We need not replicate their politics, but we can definitely learn from their experiences as fundamentals in both the countries are the same. China has promoted Science Education by following Scientific methods of Education. The former takes care of offering of courses in physical, natural and even engineering subjects (Science of engineering) through the educational institutions. The latter is the method of offering a course of study in a systematic, reasonable, analytical (Inductive and deductive) manner under the guidance of pedagogy. It requires continuous study and research at higher levels to charge the courses with new ideas, algorithms etc. This is sadly missing in India.

Rao has modestly stated about the craze for ICT that led to what I call “Brain cripple” (not drain or gain) to indicate the damaging effect of generations of best brains going in for easy money through body shopping. Even IIT, IIM hunters do ultimately land up in Finance or ICT and some of our so called Intellectuals who are making business out of brains are responsible for this. Rao being a Kanndiga and a Banglorean knew the kind of damage done to our efforts to build Science and Technology distracting from this endeavor. If the proportion of patents sealed (accepted) out of the total filed is taken as a criterion of our scientific effort, it was 68 per cent in 1970 has come down to 33 per cent after the WTO regime and 17.7 per cent in 2006.

The decadence is not due to lack of funding, though it has remained less than one per cent of GDP (0.87).The budget allocation has increased from Rs 53041 crore in 2009-10 to Rs 72620 crore in2011-12. This is a reasonable amount on the government side. The shortfall get up due to the meagre amount spent by Private sector both on Education and R and D compared to any OECD country. Those who are curious for the resurrection of science wish to get more funds and empathy both from government and corporates.

Science and Technology do not progress as depicted in Fiction and Myths. They are to be cultivated over a period of time. But, the hegemony of some of our traditional institutions in confronting science and even promoting or endorsing canards (ISRO-Balaji episode), Rao feared would send a wrong message to the young inquisitive minds. Faith is personal and therefore responsible people including Judicial Officers should discretely practice it in the interest of common good of the nation and in allegiance to the Constitution.

Regrettably reasonable and rational attitudes that promote verifiability and falsifiability, the threshold of scientific enquiry are now mired. The decadence of Science and scientific temper seems to be happening with the profligacy of, according to Rao, 'idiots'?

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