‘We need to shift to research-based knowledge economy’

Manasi Saraf Joshi
Tuesday, 26 June 2018

The universities in Germany are nearly 500 years old while we hardly have a university which has completed 200 years. Thus, Indian universities lack in experience, maturity and fundings, however, calamities can be converted into opportunities if we work in a cohesive fashion, believes scientist Arvind Natu in an exclusive interview with Manasi Saraf Joshi talks about the Indian research and education scenario.

The universities in Germany are nearly 500 years old while we hardly have a university which has completed 200 years. Thus, Indian universities lack in experience, maturity and fundings, however, calamities can be converted into opportunities if we work in a cohesive fashion, believes scientist Arvind Natu in an exclusive interview with Manasi Saraf Joshi talks about the Indian research and education scenario.

Q: Congratulations on receiving the Order of Merit honour from German government. Throw us some light about the honour and your association with Germany.
A: After doing my doctorate (PhD) from National Chemical Laboratory, I applied to a German institute for doing my post-doctorate there in 70s. I always wanted to do my further education from Germany. After doing the doctorate, I applied for DAAD (German Academic Exchange Service). At that time, four vivid differences I experienced there. English was a rare language, there was no drinking water available, no vegetarian food was available and similarly, there was no visa required. I stayed with a family in a village and learned German from them. Since I was steadfast on completing my course there, I overcame all these difficulties. I went to West Berlin which was surrounded by East Germany then. If you just cross 20 kilometres and you are in East Germany. Germany and India have more or less same family structure and values.

Q: Let’s us know about the association with DAAD.
A: I was appointed as a honorary consultant in 2007 and in 2010, I was the German research ambassador. Research ambassador means to facilitate the young students to go to Germany for further studies or research. It is a worldwide programme. I was also associated with the prestigious German Innovative Competition wherein young researchers will be given three minutes to present an idea. I was the first person from India to facilitate this programme Falling Wall. DAAD an important role and facilitated to develop Indo-German collaborations in science and education. I am really thankful to Mock of Director DAAD India, Dr Devi, Director, DAAD, Pune and Dr Jurgen Morhard.

Q: What is the difference between Indian education and German education? How much importance does Germany give for the research?
A: The basic and foremost difference between Indian and German universities is that German universities are as old as 500 years while we hardly have any university which is 200 years old. Thus, the experience, maturity, infrastructure and flow of funds vary. They have flexibility as in Germany, 68 per cent of research funding comes from private industry while here in India, we get 90 per cent of funds from the government. We lack in flexibility. Similarly, they are into inter-disciplinary education from long years. No doubt, they have their set of problems. 

Q: Where do India lack in research field? And what steps must be taken to improve the scenario?
A: We lack in sustainable research. The industry here is not mentally prepared for sustainable research and not interested in investing in it. The industry is not forceful to have a culture of sustainability or R&D. We need to change from the current service economy to research-based knowledge economy. Some efforts have been taken in that direction, but they are at a low pace and not consistent.  

Q: What efforts are needed to be taken at the school level?
A: We have no motivation for teachers. Actually, the school teachers are not treated at par with other professions in our country. We are so unfortunate that we have never encouraged the ITI system which actually was a skill-based programme. And today again, we are moving to have skill-based education structure. We fail to inculcate the research culture among the students. I think if a student wants to pursue science education, then he must have Mathematics and Biology till standard XII. The student should not have the option of opting out of it. Our graduates cannot take challenges of the industry unfortunately and neither can industry adapt it. 

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