India’s R&D, Science and Mathematics

We had a lot of hope from Nilesh, the youngest son of my cousin Nirmal. He wasted a year in Kota taking coaching for getting into IITs and then took admission in a private engineering school near Agra. He has just completed his first semester of engineering. He had preferred for electrical and electronics as his branch, not because he had interest in it, but as it could get him better chance for placement from the institute itself. Nilesh was with me last week. I was amazed when he talked about doing MBA as his goal after completing engineering. I advised him to focus on his engineering. MBA from a good college is not only expensive, but also makes the 4-year education of engineering a waste. More prudent way out perhaps is to go for an executive management course related to the sector the engineering graduate gets into for his initial employment. However, most students of engineering today are having almost similar wishes as Nilesh wanted. I don’t know if Nilesh would follow my advice.

Nilesh and his age group are least interested in mastering or even knowing the basics of their preferred subjects. Perhaps MGK Menon revealed the scenario very rightly when he said, “Most people are searching for money. So those who do science and are very good at it, want to do IIT entrance. Then they go for these tuition and so on. And by the time they finish with all those examination efforts and the tuition, they are completely drained. There’s nothing much left in them. And then they get into an IIT, and then what is their aim in getting into an IIT? Not to do engineering, per se, but to then get out and do an MBA. And from an MBA, they want to go into areas like finance, and so on. And very large number want to essentially enter the IT sector, which is the money-making sector.” Thus the left outs for teaching and R&D functions are certainly not the best, though only the best would have been desirable.

Let us look at few recent media reports in support of what I have tried to state:

“A student of the coveted institute, Siddharth Shah, was the first student from his batch to be picked up by a leading global investment bank during the summer internship. The company paid him Rs 2.5 lakh per month during the internship. With such credentials, Shah would be among the highest paid students of the institute in the campus placement.” Why should not this become the dream of all who can do that?

Six undergraduate students at Shri Ram College of Commerce (SRCC), University of Delhi, have walked away with offers from Deutsche Bank with a salary package of Rs 16.5 lakh per annum.”

95% of students graduating this year from IIM-B are from a technical background (93% from engineering and 2% from science, commerce students make up 3% of the student body while other fields account for a mere 2%.It’s not much different at IIMA, where engineers constitute 91% of the student body.” “In sharp contrast, Harvard Business School (HBS) has the following division of its class of 2012 based on undergraduate majors: humanities and social sciences (43%); engineering/natural science/technology (33%); business administration (21%). Or look at Wharton: humanities and social sciences (43%), business (29%), engineering/math/science (25%); and others (3%).” Does it not require a serious overview to stop the loss of the best engineers by the policy makers who must consult and collaborate to find the solution desirable for the industry as well as for the candidates? “Should not tech pros get an MBA?”

The lure of the initial package in million offered by the private enterprises, particularly the financial institutions, from all over the world in the mind of the student community and parent fraternity is creating havoc for learning oriented education and the result of this aggressive but unscrupulous invasion on the knowledge society will be horrendous. India will hardly get the first class brain for the really skill requiring professions such as those of doctors, engineers and scientists. And this chaos is coming from the business model innovators of US. I hardly know what can be done about it.

Further, with globalization and scarcity of talent and trained persons, the best of India’s brains still prefer to go to foreign soils for studies or jobs. The next best try to get into the MNCs that have established its shop in India. For the analytical jobs, many financial giants such as HSBC are hiring chartered accountants, MBAs and graduates in engineering, mathematics and statistics.

Our education system as such is hardly encouraging the students to appreciate and get interested in knowing any subject to its ultimate depth. It’s just a chance that some rare species for reasons unknown go for teaching and R&D.

India’s disadvantage is also due to the wide spread deprivation and the lack of education of the parents in the majority of the population. They just can’t give up an opportunity to get to the top ranking jobs.

Under this scenario, how can one think of getting in competition with the country where the education at early stage itself as well as the society, make a student interested in pursuing a subject of interest rather than a subject that pays the most as initial package?

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