Tuesday, December 14, 2010

Don't just count the number of Ph.D.s

When comparing India with countries in the developed world, even with China, one of the measurement parameters adopted is the number of Ph.D.s produced every year by India and by other countries. It is often said that for a country of our size our number is plainly inadequate and must go up manifold in science and technology and social sciences including management studies if we have to keep our place among the world's emerging economies.

All this is unexceptionable but a thought should be given to the quality of research at our universities and other institutions of higher learning. Barring a few, they are not properly equipped for carrying out research specially in the newer areas of science and technology, both in terms of expertise and necessary scientific instruments. There is a relatively better known private university in the National Capital Region in which research in the cutting edge nanotechnology is being conducted for the past four-five years without any competent guide. One could have reasons to believe that many Ph.D. theses there would just be cut and paste jobs of a plethora of research papers on the internet.

The malaise lies much deeper, the spirit of enquiry is not encouraged in our schools and colleges. One can not only make do but also score very high marks just by learning by rote. So, when such students go to work on their Ph.D. they can not be expected to suddenly turn into real researchers. In order to produce Ph.D.s of some value, work has to start very early when the students are in their formative years by letting them learn by exploring and experimenting, by working on projects, and not by limiting their imagination to the boundaries set by the text books.

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