Developing scientific attitude

Transforming institutions into innovation hubs
"This has severely dented the efforts of inculcating scientific temperament and attitude among the school and college going students which in the long run has negatively impacted our country in becoming an innovation hub."
"This has severely dented the efforts of inculcating scientific temperament and attitude among the school and college going students which in the long run has negatively impacted our country in becoming an innovation hub."Special arrangement

DR. MUSHTAQ RATHER

On March 4, 1958, under the leadership of Jawaharlal Lal Nehru, for the first time in the history of independent India, the Parliament passed a resolution on science policy.

The resolution stated: “Science has provided new tools of thought and has extended man’s mental horizon. It has  thus influenced even the basic values of life, and given to civilization a new vitality and a new dynamism.”

India in general and our UT in particular is way behind in the quality and spread of science research. The biggest lacuna has been the way science is taught as a subject in our schools and colleges.

Unfortunately science is merely taught as a normal subjects just like languages where in transmission of black and white information is central in teaching –learning transaction.

This has severely dented the efforts of inculcating scientific temperament and attitude among the school and college going students which in the long run has negatively impacted our country in becoming an innovation hub.

The maximum emphasis is still being given to the theoretical part of the curriculum and students hardly get an opportunity to nurture their curiosity driven scientific attitude.

Unfortunately we are still adapting the lecture –cum demonstration method to teach diverse science content and are reluctant to switch to science specific pedagogy. In fact there 52 pedagogies in science which can be meticulously evaluated, selected and then applied  as per nature and demand of the science topic.

But unfortunately this has not been the trend  and science teacher is  after the completion of the content and finishing of the textual exercise given at the end of the chapter rather than  providing ample opportunities to the end user to get grossly involved in hand-on-experience activities.

The health of a nation depends, among other factors, on the health of the state of its science and technology. In an increasingly competitive global economy, knowledge driven growth powered by innovation is a critical imperative.

Just like a ship that overlooks to chart new waters will become stranded, so will a nation that fails to invest in research and development find itself stuck in the doldrums of economic stagnation.

One of the prominent factor that has marred innovation in science and technology is the least proportion of GDP being spent on research and innovation.

Statistics from the Ministry of Science and Technology indicate that India’s expenditure on Research and Development was hovering around 0.6% of the Gross Domestic product (GDP), well below the 1-2% that was characteristic of countries with a stronger science and technology infrastructure and global average of 1.8%. Even among other BRICS countries, only South Africa lags behind in terms of R&D expenditure.

The Prime Minister's Science, Technology and Innovation Advisory Council’s startling findings is that out of 40000 Higher Education Institutions, less than 1 percent actively participate in high quality research. This indicates that 99 percent of Higher Education Institutions are not contributing to the country’s high quality knowledge creation.

On paper, our country should be in a good position as the pipeline of researchers seems to be undiminished; we are ranked third in the world in terms of  number of science and technology PhDs awarded and have improved our ranking in the Global Innovation Index , from 66 to 60 and yet  mere 56771 patents were  filed in India in 2021 , which is just 4 percent of the number filed in China and 9.5 percent of the number filed in U.S. It is quite evident from this statistical data that our country is lagging way behind in the field of innovation.

This disparity in patent filing is substantial when compared to China and U.S. In fact only 28% registered for applications are eventually filed. Meanwhile , patent pendency times in India are among the highest in the major economies , with a patent taking about 6-7 years between a request for examination and a final office action. In comparison, South Korea and China have pendency timings of 16 and 22 months, respectively.

Initiatives undertaken to popularize innovation in science and technology

National Research Foundation:

One of the standout recommendations of 2020 was the establishment of a National Research Foundation (NRF) to manage a competitive grant system for research and development in educational institutions.

The ultimate goal of the NRF will be to seed, grow and promote research and development and foster a culture of innovation through out the institutions of the country. The central government has finally given cabinet nod on  June 28, 2023 to the establishment of NRF. A budget allocation of Rs 50,000 crore has been envisaged for the next five years .

The contribution of the central government has been pegged at Rs 14,000 crore while the remaining 36,000 crore will be garnered from public  sector enterprises , industry , and international research organizations. It has been proposed to convert the science Engineering Research board ( SERB) affiliated with Department of Science and Technology into National Research foundation. The department of science and technology (DST) will be the administrative department of NRF , which will be governed by a board consisting eminent researchers and professionals disciplines.

Atal Tinkering Labs:

To arouse scientific and innovative attitude among aspiring innovators and to move away from content memorization, government think tank, Niti Aayog, under the Atal Innovation mission, funds hands –on-do-it-yourself labs for schools known as Atal Tinkering Labs(ATL). 

The Atal Innovation mission is an encouraging start , focusing on facilitating school –level financial grants to help nurture an initial layer of innovation. Under the ATL Scheme, a school must apply to secure funding for setting up the lab.

After thorough assessment of the school , a financial support of Rs 20 lakh is allotted of which 12 lakh are disbursed in the first year and the remaining 8 lakh are disbursed in installments over the next four years. While currently there are 10,000 ATLs across states , the Niti Aayog team working on the project had conducted an internal analytical study on the projected requirements based on population density and geography. The detailed estimate suggested that there is requirement of as many as seven to eight times the current number of ATLs in the country.

INSPIRE MANAK Awards :

The INSPIRE (Innovation in Science Pursuit for Inspired Research),  MANAK (Million Minds Augmenting National Aspirations and Knowledge) awards are part of a larger INSPIRE programme, initiated by the previous UPA government in 2010 to attract and retain talented students ( classes 6th – 12th ) to careers in science via scholarships and early career support. The Department of science and technology is the executing agency who have actually conceptualized this programme to hook children early onto science and research and tweaking it to reflect a thrust on technology and exposing children to the “ Innovative cycle

A focus on building an innovation culture is integral, particularly giving the transformative shift under way in sectors critical to India’s economy. Our innovation policy has to shift focus on inculcating a mind set of “ out –of-box” thinking at an early age . India’s educational policies need to be redesigned, with a focus on building cognitive abilities , beyond rote learning.

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