India lags behind in scientific education


Prime Minister Manmohan Singh, at the 99th Indian Science Congress took a tough stand on the decline in the scientific ability of the country in comparison to China and other countries. This is the case in India even after government has taken initiatives to promote research and development.

Importance of Scientific research and technology

Scientific research and technological innovation forms the foundation on which the competencies of any country is build to achieve economic prosperity in the present day world. Research and innovation are the main engines that drive creation of employment opportunities and ultimately wealth creation. It is taken for granted that scientific research has the authority and capacity to generate employment and wealth for the country and its people. In addition to this, scientific ability forms the basis of national security and defense capabilities which helps in developing defense capabilities indigenously. In addition to this, it will help India to play an important role in the affairs of the world and to safeguard its boundaries, given the hostile neighbors.

The scenario in India

In this direction, the scientific strength of India is highly related to and in line with the policies in the field of education and defense. The ability of a country in terms of scientific research and development is closely linked to its higher education and research infrastructure. If the country lacks in quality research centers and good leaders to lead them, then it is not possible to generate top class research output. The prime minister also stresses on the point that the Indian industry need to increase the investment on research if India is to attain spending of 2 per cent of the gross domestic product on research and development. It is certain that India can spend more on research and development, by providing incentives for research which will increase competition and thus enhance research output. The large sectors such as power, defense and aerospace has the capacity to accommodate private participation and thus increase competition. These sectors consist mainly of government undertakings thus making them monopolies or oligopolies. With the introduction of competition, companies will be forced to fight for customers and profits, thus will have no other way than to innovate and thus increase their spending on research and development.

UPA regime and economic growth

The economic growth which is evident from the increase in GDP growth of the country which is hovering around 8 per cent from 2004 has increased the revenue from tax which presently amounts to about Rs. 12trillion. The policies that are being put forward by the UPA government in the field of education and defense have not benefited out of this huge corpus. Mr. Arjun Singh, Minister for Human Resource and Development during UPA 1 was engaged in increasing the quota for students in educational institutions run by the government. The effort should have been on increasing the capacity at such institutions, so that there would have been enough opportunities for the students from all sections of the society.

The Right to Education and its impact on education

The present minister for Human Resource and Development, Kapil Sibal has introduced the Right to Education act which enforces quotas in private schools. In addition to this the act contains restrictions and regulations which will lead to the closing down of many of the private schools. In India, most of the parents like to send their child to private schools due to the poor quality in government schools. This is the case with parents from poor background too. But the government has failed to take into consideration the sentiments of parents and has introduced a bill that will affect the poor. The question is whether the government is concerned about learning outcome or lacks vision to understand the damage that its policies have caused by denying basic schooling to lakhs of children.

How is it possible for a country like India to create a pool of talents who will lead science if lakhs of children are denied access to quality primary education and are separated on the basis of identity while admitted to higher education institutions?

Defense research and its impact on science and technology

There is enough proof to explain that spending in defense research can stimulate expansion in the field of science and technology. The United States which is a technologically advanced country allocates 55 per cent of the federal research and development spending on defense research under the department of defense. This has led to the birth of many technologies from research carried out by the department that has had significant impact outside the defense sector. The internet and the Global Positioning System are the best examples for this.

Possible solution to overcome the present crisis

A possible solution in India in terms of improving the research outcome is the collaboration between higher education institutions, research institutions and various industries which will significantly improve the output. Till recently, India did not have enough resources to make huge investments and purchases in the field of defense. Now with the resources in hand, it is high time to bring about reforms in the research activities that are being performed in institutes such as Defense Research and Development Organization (DRDO). There are many Indian examples too in the contribution of defense labs to the society. For example, DRDO has recently tried to commercialize mosquito repellents, spray to drive away moths, cream to be applied on the body to keep away bugs, a high altitude toilet, and a new cloth for bras. It is high time for India to reconsider its priorities in the field of defense research.

In the case of China, they have been successful in developing scientific strength with proper and substantial investment in setting up universities and defense capacity.  For India to see a revolution in scientific outcomes, we have to integrate defense, education, research institutions and the industry. Without this comparison with China will be of no use and the potential of India in the field of science and technology will not be realized.



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