MISSION 2030 - Nobel Prize In Science

B. Sridhar, Educationist. Ex-Director, Educational Resources Centre, Society for the Advancement of Education, Noida

2018-03-20 07:54:18

Credit: nobelprize.org

Credit: nobelprize.org

On 28th February 1928, Sir C.V.Raman announced to the world his discovery, the Raman Effect, which is about the scattering of light by liquid molecules. In India every year this day is celebrated as “National Science Day”.

Chandrasekara Venkata Raman received the Nobel Prize in Physics for this discovery in 1930. C.V. Raman is the first Indian to receive this highest award in Physics/Science for the research conducted purely in the Indian soil. In 1907, a young Raman, with the government job as an Assistant Accountant-General, accidentally spotted the sign board of Indian Association for the Cultivation of Science (IACS) in Bow Bazar Street of Calcutta. He enquired about availing the facilities of ‘Vizianagaram Laboratory’ to pursue research in his spare time citing his keen interest in research. He was welcomed with open arms by the Honorary Secretary Amrita Lal Sircar, son of Late Dr Mahendra Lal Sircar, Founder of IACS, who not only allowed to use the Association’s facilities but also saw to that the laboratory was kept open at very unusual hours. C.V.Raman with K.S.Krishnan carried out a path breaking research work on Physical Optics. The results were first published in the Indian Journal of Physics and rest is the history. C.V.Raman and Indian Science are forever inseparable.

‘What ails Indian Science?’ is the one question which is asked ever since Independence but seldom answered. Sometime back the Nobel Laureate Prof. Venkataraman Ramakrishnan, who is also the President of The Royal Society, called the Indian Science Congress a ‘Circus’. Prime Minister Narender Modi, while addressing the Indian Science Congress at Tirupati, told that India can be among the top three countries in Science and Technology by 2030 ‘but it can only happen if there is collaboration’. Do we have a road map for India to get a Nobel Prize in Science by 2030 when we commemorate the “Hundred years of the discovery of Raman Effect” or will it be just seminars and symposiums?   

It is possible only if we could reflect on our present education system and ‘think differently’ by shifting our focus to the task of ‘Nobel Prize in Science by 2030’ by making radical changes in to the existing system with the massive support of all the stakeholders - educationists, administrators, parents, students and politicians. The present education system has only gone through ‘cosmetic’ changes which the British has introduced. Since Independence we have only juggled with the ‘syllabus’ and ‘examination pattern’ retaining the basic structure same. Can the faulty approach be modified by keeping the status quo without stirring up a hornets’ nest? Can we dream big and achieve success by fine tuning the existing curriculum and structure yet focus on Mission 2030 - Nobel Prize in Science?

Some points to ponder over:

  • School Education - Catch Them Young: The fertile minds and curiosity of the children in middle school onwards should be tapped first. These young ones are full of questions with no one to answer, full of energy for hands-on activities with no proper laboratories and full of creativity to try ‘new things’ with no one to nurture. Everyone is busy with the rat-race of completing the syllabus, conducting innumerable tests/examinations and on regular intervals informing the parents about their wards ‘performance’. If only some so called ‘elite’ and ‘reputed’ schools can create ‘School Level Science Centres’ in their respective schools and equip the centre with minimum apparatus and equipments to have hands-on experience, we would have put foundation for the resurrection of Indian Science. The nearby schools too can also be invited to be part of this project and local groups can be created.
  • Creative Thinking among the young minds will flourish and enhance the chances of students opting voluntarily for pure science at college level will increase. As our former President Dr APJ Abdul Kalam said, “I always think of ‘What can I give for my country and countrymen?’”, if only our science teachers volunteer for this SLSC project and guide the students with the motto of ‘igniting the young minds’, it would be of a great national service. We proudly say Teaching is a Noble profession, but can we really make it happen through our own commitment and contribution?
  • If these centers can remain open on Saturdays and Sundays then the parents may not resent their wards missing the ‘extra classes’ and ‘tuitions’. To ignite young minds, the students should participate in International Level competitions like ‘Beamline for Schools’ of CERN Laboratory. Funding can be done once the alumni of the schools who are rich and famous can be convinced of the mission and involved in these projects. Many of them will be happy to contribute to the SLSC project and hence to the Mission 2030 - Nobel Prize in Science.
  • College Education - Pursue Pure Science: After successful 90 plus in board examinations, when the hustle and bustle for admission to the ‘best colleges’ are over, then the students have to be initiated to the joy of learning by doing. Regular laboratory work will create an atmosphere for self learning and collaboration. It is very unfortunate that copy - paste culture for Project Work is the standard practice amongst our younger generation. Physical Models and Electronic Projects are made and sold by professionals, ultimately leading to the death of thinking. To feed the curiosity of youth at graduate and post graduate levels, modules emphasizing experimental skills which are embedded in the curriculum to develop experiential learning should be introduced.
  • These modules can be offered as an additional subject with NO grades which can inspire a few enthusiastic learners. Autonomous colleges can set up ‘College Level Science Centre’ and initiate project work involving recent research topics. District/State level cooperation between colleges will help the students to come together and share their ideas and learn the Collaborative Problem Solving Skill, which is one of the four C’s of 21st Century Skills. Even Mr. Sundar Pitchai, CEO of Google, during his interaction with students at his alma mater IIT, Kharagpur wondered why the students think of management courses at IIMs while doing engineering/science courses in IIT. So to encourage basic research, part of the CSR funds can be diverted to the CLSC and the facilities can be upgraded regularly. Again participating in International level competitions will give an exposure to our students. The role of lectures and professors is very crucial and important for the task of Mission 2030 - Nobel Prize in Science.
  • PhD - Doctor of Philosophy - Fix it Up: The most critical stage of ‘real’ research begins in the Universities and all the Institutes funded by Central and State Governments. The issue is of the ‘quality versus quantity’ of research scholars produced by these universities and institutes. One wonders why not even a single research work done in Science from India is worth a Nobel Prize since 1930. Are we so directionless and accepted mediocrity? Are our research organizations convinced that as a nation we are a failure in Science? Many of our Scientists visit foreign countries regularly and what is the take away from these centers of higher learning? What do we lack – infrastructure and facilities or funds and autonomy or implementation or commitment?

It is high time that we seriously pondered over the present crisis of lack of quality research in Indian Science!! At present the only alternative left with the enthusiastic and restless youth of this great nation is to migrate to foreign universities and involve in research work and ultimately triumph as Nobel Laureate of Indian Origin.