Country's scientific prowess cat is out of the bag
the much awaited report on India's scientific prowess is finally out. The two-year, Rs 2.5 crore effort finds very little to write positively about a country that calls itself a potential knowledge superpower and has begun to bandy about its 'scientific know-how'. India Science Report exposes several mismatches between policy and action. The report deals mainly with three areas: science and engineering education, the utilisation pattern of human resources that have had some kind of access to science and technology inputs (in their education, or in their job) and public attitude towards science and technology in India. For years, the scientific leadership here has cried wolf over youngsters being disinterested in science; the report, on the other hand, points out the enrolment for science degrees has actually gone up: from 28.8 per cent in 1995-1996 to 34.6 per cent in 2003-2004. But what the report is alarmed about is the quality of science teaching -- an issue the science gurus keep mum about. While two-thirds of students in classes 6 to 8 said they were satisfied with the teaching, this figure fell to just 40 per cent in classes 11 and 12.
Another cause of worry: the share of science postgraduates, among all the unemployed that have studied up to a Masters degree level, is disturbingly high -- 62.8 per cent. There lies an irony. The government wants more students to go for science. But their chances of ending up jobless are extremely high if they go for an M Sc degree. The report, prepared on the basis of feedback from 3.46 lakh people from both urban and rural India, shows barely half the jobs that require science and technology inputs are held by those so qualified.
India's education and research managers now have a real job on their hands. For, as the report shows, the education sector in general is reeling under acute crisis. The only higher education sectors doing well are engineering (because of that information technology job, that fat salary) and medicine. There is a drastic decline in enrolment for higher education in natural science, arts and commerce, compared to 1995-2000. Similarly, agriculture: for a country whose economy is predominantly agriculture-based, graduate and postgraduate enrolment is 0.9 and 1.1 per cent respectively, compared to 7.9 and a whopping 26.4 per cent for engineering.
Did someone say India is a knowledge superpower? Potentially?
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