The current state of science education in India

Science education in India is mandatory until the class tenth. While the curriculum may differ depending on the board the school belongs to, the primary subjects of science – physics, chemistry and biology – and mathematics are compulsory subjects of study. 

Two problems plague the education system in India. The most obvious one is the inequality of science education based on socio-economic backgrounds. Children from affluent backgrounds get a thorough grounding thanks to private tuitions and access to top-notch materials. More often than not, they will also have teachers who are far more superior than the ones in backward communities.

The second issue is more to do with the cultural landscape of the Indian middle class. Almost every student who pursues science to the higher secondary level does so with the single aim of qualifying for one of the competitive examinations, which makes them eligible for pursuing medicine or engineering. 

NEP and science education in India

The draft of “National Education Policy” released in May 2019 does reflect on changes needed in the system. It lays stress on the importance of moving away from learning-by-rote and allows teachers to modify the curriculum as per the needs of the students. In keeping with this ideology, CBSE schools in India are making their lessons more experiential where the student incorporates the various subjects to complete projects.

While the draft policy recognizes the problems in the system and visualizes bold solutions, the policy has been criticized for the lack of direction in implementation – especially, with respect to the lack of trained teachers to administer these changes.

Higher education in science 

From Aryabhatta to C.V Raman, India is the land of great mathematicians and scientists. But a higher education system which still lives by the philosophy of colonial-era has not done much to assist the cause of science in India.

As mentioned earlier, science education in India has become synonymous with a career in engineering or medicine. While these are essential professions, this also means that it is not always the best that goes into research. 

Lack of infrastructure for research and faculty is one of the main reasons why higher studies in science are taking a backseat to professional courses.

Commenting on the state of higher education and research in Science, Anurag Mehta, Professor of engineering at IIT Bombay expressed his shock at the appalling state of Ph.D. theses in India. 

He says that the root cause of this is the inferior quality of undergraduate students in India. The rote-learning system and bad undergraduate learning make them incompetent for research, in addition to killing their interest in higher studies.

Students who enroll in doctoral research do so when they cannot find good jobs, and this makes them poor candidates for research.

Narayana Murthy, the co-founder of Infosys, reflected on the problems of science education in India ( computer science and research to be specific) as it pertains to the technology industry. He remarked improvement in the current system is critical if India hopes to retain its position as a global leader in software services.

Mr. Murthy’s main concern was in the quality of computer science taught in second and third-tier engineering colleges. He stressed that the purpose of education should be to ignite curiosity in students and enable critical thinking.

There is a significant gap in the contribution of academia to the industry in India. If India hopes to progress and attain the highly ambitious growth goals, the correction needs to start at the elementary level.

Mr. Ram Nath Kovind, the President of India, emphasized this point while addressing the Nobel laureates seminar:

“Without a strong, dynamic, and creative education and schooling system, we cannot create a research and innovation culture. It is important to cultivate curiosity in our classrooms and free science from the tyranny of jargon.”