Thursday, July 12, 2007

D. Balasubramanian on higher ed in India

In his latest Speaking of Science column in the Hindu:

Undergraduate education, which should provide the broad base, has increasingly become single-field oriented, neglecting vital support subjects. Many PhD degree holders in India today in, say biology, have not learnt physics, chemistry and mathematics beyond high school level, and are ignorant in economics, sociology, geography or languages.

What is true of a PhD in biology is also true of a Ph D in economics, physics or Urdu (with due variations).

Given his strong support for a broad-based education, I don't understand why he praises the setting up of IISERs. The real scandal is not (just) that India has neglected the development of this or that field, it is that it has not bothered to set up and nurture real universities in large enough numbers.


  1. Wavefunction said...

    While setting up new universities is a worthy endeavor (with a view to wiping the slate clean and starting fresh) we also need to pay attention to our old universities. Otherwise we will just get a larger number of mediocre universities in the end.

  2. Rahul Siddharthan said...

    I recently talked to someone who is moving to one of the IISER's (he will be one of the few "established" faculty members there), and he told me that the undergraduate degree will be in "natural sciences" -- there will be no official specialisation. There will be two years of common coursework encompassing all the sciences, and three years of elective coursework where you can "de facto" specialise, but it will not be reflected in the name of the degree. The article you mention says the same.

    I think this is an excellent idea, and is impossible to implement in our universities as they stand. Moreover, the article you cite says the courses will include languages, humanities and social sciences. It will be closer to a "real university" than any that we have today.

    I only think a 4 year program would be better: something that Balasubramaniam apparently agrees with.