Monday, October 16, 2006
by Dr. Rajkishore Prasad
Lecturer, Department of Electronic Science, BRA Bihar University, Muzaffarpur.
(At present Research Fellow, Japan)
Oct. 16, 2006
The two acronyms NISc and IISER stand here for National Institute of Science and Indian Institute of Science for Education and Research, respectively, with modality that former became a history on paper within our political arena and later is present and a reality. Our whole nation is depleted of the Center of Excellence (COE) in science. Naturally, human resources with excellent scientific abilities are in minority but needed in majority to provide impetus to support up hill journey of our changing economy and society. Absence or any weakness in supporting scientific thrust will have adverse effect on the development of knowledge supported economy and society. The last NDA led central government came to realize this fact with serious plan to improve scientific caliber of the country. India needs scientists for which COEs are required to provide training of sciences to youngsters. But most of the young brains are reluctant to choose basic sciences as their career due to unsecured future. This matter of national concern was pointed by the former Hon'ble Minister for Human Resource Development, Professor Murli Manohar Joshi on the occasion of the golden Jubilee function of UGC. His observation was as under: "The undergraduate education in pure sciences is a matter of serious concern. We are going to face shortage of good researchers in a few years time particularly in our premier research institutes in the field of Atomic Energy, Space, Bio-technology, Energy, Oil exploration, Communication and so on. We will have to focus at 10+2 level and "catch them young" for integrated 5 years teaching programme with a possibility of exit after three years".
The NDA led government announced to open four National Institutes of Science across (East: At Bhubaneswar in the proximity of Utkal University, West: At Pune in the proximity of University of Pune, North: At Allahabad in the proximity of Allahabad University, South: At Chennai in the proximity of Anna University) the country. However, at none of these places, NISc came into existence and in between central government was changed. The present UPA led central government is silent over the issue of NISc, however, has announced to open similar institutes named as IISER at Kolkata, Pune, Kanpur and Chandigarh. It seems matter of NISc is gone. It is also not known if the IISER is modification or replacement of NISc but aims and objectives of both types of institutes are similar. Till today IISERs have been brought into functional existence at Kolkata and Pune and they have announced for admission in the first session starting from August, 2006. Establishment of IISER can be taken as a unique step to safeguard declining science education in the country. Some of the important and special features of IISER can be observed as under
I. IISER will be an autonomous institute under the Ministry of Human Resource Development (MHRD), Government of India. It will serve as research universities of the highest caliber and will provide teaching as well as research training of excellent quality in the basic science subjects.
II. IISER will offer 5-years integrated Masters and post-bachelors and post-Masters Ph.D. programs. Beside this doors for the integrated programs will be open for all those graduating in science from different universities. The integrated programme will be flexible and student can leave this taking master degree after four years if not willing to do doctoral programme. Also, an M.Sc. degree holder from outside can get entry into PhD programme of the IISER. There will be options and opportunities for the post-doctoral and research positions. Students will get scholarship on the basis of merit.
III. IISER will provide multidisciplinary science education and specialization. Traditional borders will be highly flexible. Thus curriculum of IISER will be multidisciplinary.
IV. The academic programmes will be semesterized with options for specialization in multiple disciplines of basic sciences based on a flexible credit system.
V. Apart from classroom instructions, IISER will equip students with skills of other areas such as scientific inquiry, problem solving, communication skills, computational sciences, electronics and instrumentation, workshop and glass blowing practices. IISER will be an institute of international standards and provide research opportunities in the frontier areas.
VI. The full fledged IISER will accommodate more than 2,000 students in integrated master, doctoral and post doctoral programme, with about 200 excellent faculty members.
VII. Obviously, this new initiative of central government to popularize and pave science education and research will produce excellent scientific manpower thought the country and lead to development of superlative infrastructure, industry and other related developments in the native state of institution.
One of the most important features of the course pattern of IISER is that it will be multi-disciplinary in nature. Multi-disciplinary education in science will be helpful in developing flexible cognitive style and will train students for wide range of potential, for gaining excellence in multiple fields. It has been seen that the process of getting specialization becomes faster after adequate multidisciplinary training. This will develop specialization in students at higher levels of study or at work place. Such difference from traditional science education will increase possibility of student motivation and aptitude. It is like making Jack of all trades and master of many trades. Sometimes becoming jack of all trades is better than mastering one because it makes you master of integration, association, and conceptualization which bring distinctive specialization in future. If we see the list of polymaths e.g. Leonardo da Vinci, who was engineer, physician, painter, inventor, musician, astrologer, alchemist and architect, it is very easy for one to imbue that they were mastering many disciplines, capable in integrating knowledge of different trades and had shown unique convergence with diverging skills .
Fortunately, land of Bihar has also given many polymaths among which name of Chanakya is well known, but this land has been kept blanked with IISER, a setup with hope to produce pundits of sciences.
Bihar needs NISc or IISER
Bihar is a developing state and its development shares a great meaning with the developed India. Bihar shares about 8.9 % of the total Indian population, however, it lacks in centers for training human resources. In the name of central educational institute it has an NIT at Patna which is not newly established but is modification of a pre-exiting state; government-run engineering college. We may hope that NIT Patna will establish itself as a COE in the area of engineering in the coming years. However, for science subjects Bihar has nothing like national institutes except different departments of sciences with state-run universities. These departments are conspicuousness for lacking infrastructure, research funds, and skilled trainers. I do not like to blame existing faculties but mean to say that sharpness of a sword goes if it is put permanently in its case.
How existence of IISER in local can be beneficial can be imbued from course patterns offered by it. Its door will also be open for students graduating / mastering in science from other universities. I am sure that establishment of such institute will increase percentage of students from Bihar seeking higher education in science. As per India Science Report, less than 0.6% (not exactly mentioned and may be somewhere below this); Bihari students migrate to other states for taking science education at higher level. This is so because there is imbalance in distribution of such institutes. Also, getting higher education outside is costlier and every aspirant cannot afford it despite his/her will to continue higher education in science. Such migration of student also leads to the development of infrastructure to states where they study. The absence of central institutes has made Bihar the least central fund fetching state for the technical education. From , it is amazing to know that while Central Government spends Rs. 100 per person in Delhi, it spends Rs. 59.5190 in Uttaranchal, Rs. 59.2818 in Arunachal Pradesh, Rs. 43.8686 in Assam, Rs.19.0718 in Himachal Pradesh, Rs. 15.8650 in West Bengal, Rs.14.1825 in Karnataka, Rs.10.0440 in Tamil Nadu, Rs.9.6488 in Maharashtra, Rs.9.6432 in Uttar Pradesh, Rs.9.1463 in Jharkhand, Rs.9.0617 in Andhra Pradesh, Rs. 8.1865 in J&K, Rs.7.5542 in Punjab, Rs. 4.81 in Haryana, Rs. 4.46 in Kerala, Rs. 4.17 in Chhattisgarh, Rs. 2.7 in Gujarat, Rs.2,29 in Orissa,Rs.1.46 in Rajsthan,Rs.1.05 in Bihar (Data 2005-2006) for the technical education. Such imbalance in distribution of Central funds for education cannot be described as good sign for the development and integrity of India. Unfortunately, such imbalances have been totally uncared while establishing new institutes like IISER. On the basis of this Bihar is one of the most suitable states for opening an IISER.
The opening of IISER or similar institutes in Bihar will also be beneficial for the local universities. Faculty and students of local universities will get chance to have interaction with scholars, researchers, for participation in quality improvement programs, to know ongoing researches in the frontier areas. This all will create a new will and zeal that will not only pave broken links of science education and research but also motivates students for pursuing higher studies in science and making it as their profession. One can hope that IISER will play pivotal role in establishing strong relationship with the neighboring universities and other educational institutes to share faculty, research, development and infrastructure to achieve global level excellence in the field of science education and research.
Unfortunately, no serious steps have been taken so far to bring an IISER in Bihar. It will be not out of place to mention that like everything science education and establishment of institution for it is a politicized. Claiming with all our plus points will not bring IISER, if political leaders from our state do not take interest. Establishment of IISER will be a political decision, because many states are in the race for it with academic environment better than ours. However, denial to give IISER to Bihar on the basis of ill conditions of the existing educational system is a step to further widen regional imbalances and deliberately debarring Bihar to develop. I have been raising this issue from 2004. I become very hopeful about my demand when hon'ble president stressed need of IISER for Bihar while he was addressing joint session of our legislators in March, 2006. It's a new hope. Also when I talked, through BBC, a few months before with hon'ble union minister for S&T, he was also in favour of opening an IISER in Bihar. Appreciating my efforts, our BiharBrains (details can be seen at www.biharbrains.org), has formed recently a core-committee to make the demand emphatic and successful. I am also one of the members of the committee and it is in the process of making final report, however to make our attempts successful close cooperation of all intellectuals of Bihar is needed. One of the important steps in this direction happened when I met hon'ble union minister Sri Ram Vilas Paswan for the same in July 2006, in Tokyo. He promised to bring an IISER in Bihar. We hope our government and hon'ble ministers in the central government, MPs and all other higher authorities will show their serious concerns in bringing an IISER for Bihar.