EDUCATION SERIES – PART IV

This article is the fourth part of the ‘Education’ series of articles. Read Part III here.

‘Education ’ is a hot topic for UPSC. Questions from this topic can be expected in the essay paper or any other general studies paper. Therefore, in order to cover various aspects and dimensions of this topic we bring to you a series of posts dedicated to this specific topic. We would be analysing the topic from multiple angles and at the same time provide data, quotes etc. related to the topic.

Wherever required, we will link the article with previous parts of the series. This will not only help our readers better understand the topic but also would assist in revision.


1

The need to encourage young minds:

Akshay Venkatesh was one of the four people awarded the Fields medal in 2018 and Manjul Bhargava was awarded in the Fields medal in 2014. Both Mr. Venkatesh and Mr. Bhargava are of Indian descent, however, most of their education took place outside India.

The question, therefore, is, why has our education system not produced any Fields medallists, especially when there is no dearth of talent? The answer lies in the opportunities and training that these talents receive — or fail to receive rather the lack of these.

One of the programmes in India devoted to training students of mathematics and identifying and nurturing talent is the Mathematics Training and Talent Search, which was started 25 years ago, in 1993. Yet the number of students being trained in these programmes is still small. With 36.6 million students enrolled in higher education and 36.4% joining the science and humanities streams (All India Survey on Higher Education data), it is safe to assume that there is a considerable gap between the requirement and the availability of training and nurture.

France, a country with a population close to 6.5 crore, has about 3,000-4,000 scientists. It also boasts of 12 Fields medallists.

There is a need for a balanced network of universities, teacher education systems, and most importantly, a solid base in education.

Prizes are a characteristic of a healthy educational ecosystem. Only such an ecosystem can create enough space for young minds to explore abstract mathematical and scientific ideas freely and in turn challenge the boundaries of existing knowledge.

Source: The Hindu


2

Generalised and specialised education:

Higher education in India has grown exponentially in recent years. A survey by the All India Survey on Higher Education published in July this year shows that the gross enrolment ratio (GER) was 25.8% in 2017-18, up from 10% in 2004-05. GER is the ratio (expressed as percentage), of the total enrolment within a country in a specific level of education, regardless of age, to the population in the official age group corresponding to this level of education.

Though the GER for higher education in India is still less than what it is in developed countries, the growth rate is still quite impressive. The next step is to ensure that the outcome of academic programmes by higher education institutes (HEIs) is acceptable.

There needs to be a debate on the content of higher education in HEIs. Just after Independence, a commission comprising educationists from India, the U.K. and the U.S., and chaired by Dr. S. Radhakrishnan, was formed “to report on Indian University Education and suggest improvements. Its report came to be known as the Radhakrishnan Commission Report (RCR) and the philosophical deliberations in the report that are related to the content of higher education are still relevant today.

The RCR recommended a well-balanced education with ‘general’, ‘liberal’ and ‘occupational’ components. Without all-round general (including liberal) education, one could not be expected to play roles expected of a citizen outside one’s immediate professional sphere. The report advocated that general education and specialised/professional education should proceed together. The study of languages should be given equal importance as one communicated to the outside world only through the medium of language. Therefore, a lack of communication skills could be a handicap.

Problems in a real-life setting are interdisciplinary and require an appreciation of related fields. A report by the National Academic Press of the US also acknowledges that disciplinary specialisation has resulted in many developments but also points out that emerging problems are multi-disciplinary.  In such a scenario, it is important that professionals study the impact of innovations on society in a holistic manner.

In the present times, HEIs are far from integrated. As far as the inclusion of elements of general education in the curriculum for undergraduates is concerned, the situation is mixed. Several engineering, and science education and research institutes have embedded general education programmes at the undergraduate level. Such programmes are missing in most university-affiliated science colleges. Rather, there are institutions that cater to a single stream which precludes the possibility of even an informal interaction between students and faculty with different specialisations.

The focus of undergraduate education should be on classical disciplines, with enough credits for general education. Focus on specialisation can wait until the post graduate level.

Quote –  “The development of general ability for independent thinking and judgement should always be placed foremost, not the acquisition of special knowledge. If a person masters the fundamentals of his subject and has learned to think and work independently, he will surely find his way….” – Albert Einstein

Source: The Hindu