Professor K.B.Athreya a luminary academician at Iowa State University U.S.A. and Visiting Faculty IISc Bangalore visited Rani Chanamma University Belgaum and delivered series of lectures at various institutes in the city. He spent some time at the Mathematical Science Institute Belgaum(MISB) expressed his views on the deterioration of Pure Sciences and overall education scenario.Following are his excerpts with MISB correspondent Mr.Mayuresh .S.Gokhale.
Q;A recent noticeable trend in the field of higher education is the desertion of pure science courses ,for want of lucrative careers in the field of I.T .Do you see this as a positive development?
A;Absolutely not.Infact I am really worried about the dwindling of traditional sciences which is a core form of knowledge.
Q;People usurping good IT skills ,getting high pay packages ,generating large amount of wealth and boosting the economy .Where do you find the lacuna?
A; The trend of drifting to professions like I.T,Software etc.in anticipation of high paying jobs in a quick time frame has risen to unprecedented levels.Although the people in these fields earn a lot of money thereby contributing to the economic boom, the ramifications are enormous. These jobs are highly demanding and require long hours of work exceeding 14 hours a day.Moreover these jobs are looked upon largely as monotonous piece of work with no intellectual enhancement of an individual. There are instances of burnouts ,where the individual faces severe psychological problems. He may not be able to enjoy life or develop any creativity leading to personal unhappiness. More importantly his life turnsout to be self centered without any contribution to the society.
Q;In eightees we talked of ‘brain drain’ and today in an enormous amount of drift to IT ,but this tie within the country.Are we not losing the services of bright students to innovation?
A; The question reminds me of the situation in the 50’ s and 60’s , when Civil Services used to be a sought after career option. Any brilliant student at that point of time dreamt to be a Collector or a Secretary etc ,which shifted enormous talent from a potential innovator to Civil services. But the quantum of drift in the IT is enormous which is taking unprecedentedly large thinking and innovative minds which would other wise contribute to
Our research and compete with the world in acquiring patents thereby demonstrating competitive advantages in businesses. There are instances of great dearth of skilled work force at leading National research Institutions in the country.
Q;A situation where hardly any student gets enticed towards Undergraduate Pure Sciences , Can we construe that these courses are facing Obsolescence and would it be imperative to revamp the course contents to meet the requirements of the job market?
A; Basically the word obsolescence is a myth .The relevance of traditional sciences is persistent .In fact they are the core of knowledge that forms the basis of any technology.It is only the Institutions which are coming up with certain monotous skill based curriculum catering to the needs of job market .But it would be incorrect to call these fundamental streams like Physics,Chemistry,Biology and Mathematics as obsolete.
Q; Given a choice to design a curriculum at undergraduate level ,what are the points
On which you will emphasize?
A; The existing curriculum at undergraduate level is reasonable one.Only a dimension which could be added is that it should take note of recent trends in the respective domains and the course should be made rigorous.
Q; How would you differentiate an Undergraduate Science course in the U.S and India?
A; Essentially owing to a good faculty who are paid handsomely, the best of the experimental infrastructure and more intellectually challenging curriculum which is rigorous , have made the courses more advanced in the U.S.
Q; What according to you should be the traits of a good teacher?
A; The first thing is, he should thoroughly enjoy his profession,try and give basic concepts and anticipate things uncertain to the students ,make use of good reference books eventually should be in a position to inspire his students.
Q; How would you evaluate the higher education scenario in India ?
A; The teaching community should be aware of the latest trends in the areas and need to spend a bit of time in making progress by learning new things. This could be in the form of attending Conferences, Presenting Research Papers and gaining practical training. To my mind the learning process is unending .Any new piece of information should be shared with the students to create interest and build inquisitiveness.
Q; How would you relate the nexus between Higher education and development of a nation?
A;I n my view a chunk of consumption oriented upper middle class are spawned by excessive IT boom. Their life styles have become self –centered with little concern for the society. A higher education system with a human face will make the students aware of the problems prevailing in the society. The problems of poverty ,basic education ,health care and environment are ubiquitous in any developing nation. In a way this boom has initiated a trend of non contribution to the society which has hampered the amelioration process. Apart from this the society tends to deteriorate in large number of aspects like quality of life , intellectual effort etc which could be a big blow to any nations’ growth and development.