Thursday, February 05, 2009

Ananth Kamath: "Indian graduates lack inspiration, not infrastructure"

Here's the short abstract of the article in "India should be inspiring science and technology graduates to stay in the sector, rather than building new institutions."

In a study he conducted at IIT-Madras (where he surveyed both faculty and students), Kamath explored the factors behind S&T graduates' career choices. Here's his rather bleak summary of 'economic, non-economic and institutional' reasons behind why students leave S&T careers:

To begin with, students report being de-motivated by uninspiring classroom environments. They criticise textbooks as being sluggish and out of touch with reality.

Many students report that internships, which are supposed to give them hands-on experience of industry, only fuelled further disinterest or indifference towards an S&T career. Many claim they faced a bureaucratic work environment and outmoded infrastructure in the S&T organisations they are sent to, which stonewalls their creativity.

Even seemingly minor factors, like the quality of pre-placement presentations, sway students' minds. Students observe that wealthier multinationals, even many homegrown corporations, are conscious of the attractive power of good presentations and have visibly invested in them, in contrast to presentations by many government-run R&D labs or even private S&T organisations.

And however much teachers strive to make S&T or R&D more appealing and relevant, the long time it takes to gain recognition in a research career leave students uninspired. In today's highly connected and informed world, finding alternative professions or academic opportunities that offer faster recognition — in India or beyond — is easy.

There's also a somewhat more extended summary of Kamath's work.


  1. Anonymous said...

    "the long time it takes to gain recognition in a research career leave students uninspired. In today's world, finding alternative professions ... that offer faster recognition is easy."

    --- So, good riddance, bah-bye, god speed, send postcards.

  2. Pratik Ray said...

    The concept of career counseling doesn't exist in India. So, the bunch that ends up in engg colleges are confused with no aim/direction about what they really want to do. Only once they enter a college do they seriously ask themselves: "do I want to do this?" Often they find, that in studying engineering, they have drifted far away from the fields for which they have a knack.

    IMHO, this question "what do I really want" should be asked and answered by the student BEFORE entering a college, so that he can select a college and branch of his choice. A large chunk of parents dont really care what the child wants; they simply know what they want their child to be and impose their will. In such a situation lack of interest in their college courses (with or without attractive pre-placement presentations) will naturally motivate the students to move off from S&T careers.

    Honestly, India does not need a bunch of new tech colleges. What they do need is a strong career counseling program at high school level, and strong institutions in alternative professions (i.e. alternative to S&T).

  3. Anonymous said...

    Agree with Pratik. But career counseling is required not just at high school level but also during undergraduate in engineering. As a former engg. college teacher, I found many students are counselled (wrongly) by their seniors, students themselves who lack the maturity to counsel others.

  4. Anonymous said...

    some ideas for inspirational education time for students :

    - more conferences and workshops involving student attendance

    - better dissemination of current research fields and projects pursued by PI ( for e.g. the moon mission) ; one idea on this line would be to jump start science communication and journalism groups in institutes.