'Education System Does not Foster the Spirit of Inquiry'
BENGALURU:India has a huge population of 1.2 billion, but suffers from a dearth of innovators or scientists. Experts say this could be because the country’s education system hardly encourages students to ask questions.
An article by Ravindra P Nettimi from Indian Institute of Science Education and Research (IISER), Pune, Madhur Mangalam from University of Georgia, and Mewa Singh from the University of Mysore, recently published in the journal Current Science talks of the lack of a culture of research in the country’s under-graduate courses.
“This is what prevents us from discovering great things,” says Professor Uma Shaanker, scientist and teacher at the Department of Crop Physiology, University of Agricultural Sciences, Bengaluru. City scientists and teachers agree. They say a culture of asking questions and undertaking research would help in the making of innovators. In the article, Mewa Singh says, “Teachers play an important role in stimulating students to raise questions. ”
Uma Shaanker says, “Most students in BSc and post-graduate courses have never participated in a journey of discovery. While our students have a lot of knowledge through books, their minds are not trained to ask questions. They then become second-rate scientists.”
“If undergraduates are given research projects, it would help them take up a journey of discovery,” he added.
Role of Teachers
Dr Ravi Shankar, principal scientist at the Indian Institute of Horticultural Research says, “I remember one of my teachers would ask me to read special books on science. He inculcated in me a desire to know more. I knew even as a kid that I wanted to become a scientist.”
Uma Shaanker says, “Most teachers today are untrained and don’t know how to stimulate a child’s interest.”
“Children of classes one to eight are curious and after that this curiousity tapers if teachers do not convey the excitement of the facts they are teaching. It is not enough to teach Faraday’s discovery of electromagnetism. The excitement of that discovery must be conveyed too,” Uma Shaanker added.
Interesting spots for researchers
Nehru Planetarium in the city has a bio-research education advancement programme where BSc students in physical and biological sciences are encouraged to go to institutes like IISc, UASB and RRI. They also spend three to four months in a lab. “Many develop a liking to research and take it up as a career,” Uma Shaanker says.
The Department of Science and Technology runs a programme called INSPIRE where 150-200 students from class 11 have an opportunity to listen to talks from 21 scientists over a period of seven days. They would otherwise never meet a scientist until their PhD.
Dr Vishwesha Guttal, assistant professor, Centre for Ecological Sciences at IISc, says, “Research is a part of the under-graduate course at IISc. Our first batch will graduate next month. They did a summer research project and their last semester is focused on quality research that can be published. Most of these students will pursue research.”