Monday, May 25, 2009

Higher education in India - a low equilibrium

Gangan Prathap, one of the highly respected scientists in India, writes about the higher education in India. In his article in Current Science, he points out the following,

India does a poor job of educating its masses. Only about 10% of those in the age group 18–23 years make it to college... The Knowledge Commission projects that to raise the Gross Enrolment Ratio (GER) from 10 to 15%, we will need about 1500 universities, instead of the 450 or so that we have now. The UGC reports make a determined effort to lay down the basis for the approach and strategy for the higher education sector over the next plan (2007–12) and beyond. However, to the discerning mind, what is clear is that as before, our efforts are half-hearted and nowhere near enough.

Apparently, Indian science and higher education have settled comfortably into a low-level equilibrium groove, driven by the tyranny of low expectations. We are complacent with the 10% of the age cohort getting a college education and with 0.6% of these going on to complete a Ph D. Instead of aiming higher, we are descending inexorably down into a spiral that takes us to a low-level equilibrium point.

These are points that I have make been making several times in this blog. The number of engineering doctorates graduating from India are lesser than the number of engineering doctorates awarded to Indians in USA alone. The total number of scientists in India is around 1,00,000 and this is lower than the number of Indian scientists in USA. While numbers may not serve as an useful parameter in determining the success of science or scientists, unless the base for science is expanded, we are stuck in the low-level equilibrium.


Rainbow Science Woman said...

I think we don't have enough scientist because we don't need them. What I mean is that Indian economy is not science driven. When there the need to produce IT specialist established, there generated nation wide science and engineering colleges to fulfill this need. and I think we are generating far more scientist than our nation need because the labs across the developed nation need them and we can fulfilled part of this demand and that's why there is a big number of Indian scientist working in USA and Europe. I strongly believe in demand and supply rule. Also, if there will be same number of scientist in India as USA, where are the laboratories and Research universities where these people will work?

Anonymous said...

This is incorrect. Please read the full article by Gangan Prathap. Currently, most of the engineering colleges including NITs do not have enough Ph.Ds as faculty. If we increase the number of universities from 450 to 1500, we will feel the acute shortage of Ph.Ds even more.

Rainbow Science Woman said...

I don't have exact statistics to claim but I think whenever there is advertisement of any post in any university, number of applications exceed many fold then the number of positions. For example, last year in Pune University, there were Physics lecturer and reader position interviews held and number of applicants were approx. 75 (I forgot exact number), and most of them had Ph.D. and many of them were local candidates.

As far as engineering colleges are concerned, 1. The minimum requirement for faculty position is masters not the Ph. D. (many of them acquire Ph D later on the job), 2. since research in engineering fields are limited to only IITs/BITs, most of the Ph.D. in these colleges are from local universities and they have to choose physics, and other basic science faculty as a research guide and also do research on that line.

and finally I personally know many science PhD from state universities who don't have decent jobs (they teach in private engineering colleges for 5000-8000Rs/month), many state governments have hiring freeze and there were no hire since 90s. so why a smart student would like to pursue Ph. D.? Obviously there are other better options.

Giri@iisc said...

Thanks for your comment. I believe that there is a significant shortage of doctorates in engineering and a shortage of *good* doctorates in science. As Gangan Prathap comments in the article, if the base is to be expanded, we need many more doctorates. For this, it is required that the number of doctorates graduating from the premier institutions like IIT/IISc/IISER/IIM etc should be significantly increased.

Thanks again for your comments


Rainbow Science Woman said...

Thanks for taking up this topic. I have a lot to say.

I completely agree with the shortage of "good" doctorate in science and engineering. I will cover the topic of Ph. D. from state universities separately in my blog when I will have streamlined my thoughts.

Anonymous said...


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I have been called at IISc Bangalore for interview for admission to Phd in Nano Engg for Integrated Circuits. I will be graduating (BE Computer Science) this June.

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Thanks and Regards.