To achieve global ranking, government must focus on research in educational institutes

The aim of education would only be fulfilled when the students know how, when and where to utilise knowledge for the benefit of society

Written by Apeksha Srivastava | New Delhi | Published:March 20, 2017 2:22 pm
iit, iit bombay, iisc, best university rankings, research india. why india not in global ranking, best university in world, best university in india, best colleges india, education news The students should learn how to take risks, explore and use this education for the advantage of their society and country. (Representational photo)

From calculation of revolution time of the Earth to the ‘zero-concept’ by Aryabhatta, India has contributed with breakthrough researches to the world. As a student, I take pride on the unique innovations that makes India ahead of any country. Probably, that’s the reason I took engineering so that I can contribute to the rich legacy of our ancestors.

But when I look at the global rankings where none of the Indian university is listed in top 10, I wonder where are we going wrong. Smaller countries of Asia have better ranking over India. What is it that these countries possess but India does not?

Now-a-days, significant prominence is given to the ‘investment’ aspect which broadly involves two fronts – firstly, up to what extent the Government of a country financially supports its research projects and secondly, various aids (by private organisations, etc) the researchers of that country receive.

On this basis, Switzerland stands first closely followed by Sweden, UK and USA according to the GII rankings of 2016. Another report in the same year by Industrial Research Institute ranks USA at the top most position followed by China. India significantly lags behind on this issue.

Funding, indeed, is a very crucial facet for proper and efficient R&D but it is certainly not the only requirement. Creativity and critical thinking are the two extremely essential pillars upon which the building of research stands. These in turn depend upon the ‘education system’ of a country. Hence, it is this education system which forms the backbone of qualities required in a researcher.

Education can be classified into — theoretical and practical — both of which are interlinked. Theoretical knowledge when utilised practically with a novel approach leads to innovative research. Theory is important since practicality depends upon it – ‘we mostly implement what we learn’.

Therefore, it is necessary to inculcate students with such a theoretical education which they can easily apply in their real lives.

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Education system of countries like USA and China are built around the same ideology. The students in these countries from their very early years are encouraged to imbibe knowledge in such a manner so that they can optimise the “practical side” of the education “coin” to its fullest extent. However, this is not the case with the Indian education system.

In India, the education system mostly involves a pattern where the students have to learn the entire syllabus and ‘spill it out’ on the examination paper. The measure of intelligence (and hence marks) is decided by the extent up to which the students can write in their answer sheets. Laboratory visits and practical examinations definitely exist but they are introduced at a much later stage.

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In short, emphasis on theoretical knowledge is more prevalent in India. This is a major drawback since it crushes creativity. The aim of education would only be fulfilled when the students know how, when and where to utilise it for the benefit of society. Just cramming up the facts does not do any good as it limits the scope of reasoning. Only bookish having little to no relation with practicality results in the mind slowly getting constrained and eventually it fails to imagine beyond a certain limit. This is detrimental for research as it is all about creative imagination.

Another drawback in the system that has refrained India from giving her best in the R&D sector is the lack of proper infrastructure (laboratory facilities). According to an article by Dr JD Singh, Indian institutes like IITs are internationally known for their education standards due to their highly qualified faculty and well equipped world class laboratories.

But these institutes enrol only about 8000 students per year which is a significantly small number. India has, till now, been unsuccessful in producing Universities like Cambridge and Harvard. The Indian institutes are still not included amongst the top 100 universities of the world. This certainly is a matter of grave concern.

On a slightly different yet crucial note, the latest fashion of earning more in less time has resulted in disinterest of most of the Indians towards research which requires considerable patience. Our education system has failed to establish the faith of our people in pursuing careers related to research and innovations.

Several other factors (like education norms, etc.) aside from the ones mentioned above lead to loss of enthusiasm amongst the students towards higher education and hence research in India. This is the reason for the decreased number of students enrolling for research projects in India. This less number ultimately accounts for limited creativity skills.

In recent years, the amount of funding for R&D in the country has significantly increased but we still have to cover a huge gap. Apart from this, certain changes are necessary in our education system. The students should be made to realise that they have to leave the ‘safe-zone’ of ‘majorly’ theoretical knowledge.

The standards regarding maximum lab exposure to be incorporated from very early years in school and college lives of the students should be established which means that the lab hours should be considered very seriously way before Class 10 and 12.

Assignments in schools/colleges should give more weight-age towards practical implementation. The students should learn how to take risks, explore and use this education for the advantage of their society and country.

They should be taught the technique to mould the mud of theory into the useful pot of practicality.

This will broaden their scope of critical thinking and ultimately lead to successful breakthrough researches. The Indian education system should definitely learn from USA and other such countries in this regard.

Even these countries believe that Indians are the most intelligent people. So, our education policies should be such that they can make our students aware about the correct and effective use of this intelligence in the best possible way. Also, there is a need to enhance the number and standards of our institutions to provide world-class environment for R&D.

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Our education system is very old and cannot be changed within a night or a week or two. But there is an urgent need for its modification. Some efforts are being made in this direction but a lot more are required, both by the government and people.

It, definitely, will not be a difficult task for a country possessing such diverse talents and potential. With constant dedication, India will certainly rise to become a super power. A lively example demonstrating this is ISRO which is currently giving a tough competition to NASA.

Someone has rightly said – “Research consists in seeing what everyone else has seen but thinking what no one else has thought.”

Hence, there is a very fine line between mugging-up and the art of implementing knowledge. This implementation is crucial for a fruitful result (research) and this is what most Indians have yet to learn.

Our education system should help us in understanding this difference and hence contribute towards the success of our country.

If you are a student and wish to write for us, mail your story idea at neeti.nigam@indianexpress.com

The author is Apeksha Srivastava is an IIT Gandhinagar student

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