Jaivir Singh, Vice Chairman, PwC India Foundation speaks to Anisha Sahijwala on how research and innovation can catalyse better learning outcomes in India

How can research and innovation play a key role to better the education industry in India?
It is important as a nation to produce research papers, innovation hubs, patent our inventions/ discoveries and share our learnings at global platforms. The base of providing a conducive environment to everyone academically is to give those interested a competitive and equal platform for them to apply and pursue their higher education dreams. A reformed and level playing educational system holds relevance to address educational inequalities. Inequalities such as access and availability to education, reaching out and providing quality to students from rural and tribal belts, provide avenues for girls to excel academically and further progress into dynamic careers. A considerable amount of investment on the part of the Government needs to address the infrastructural development, training of teachers, supervisors, welcome innovative ways to create a conducive environment for youth to enrol in Research and Innovation centres. The initiative “Science, Technology, Innovation and Creation of Knowledge framework (STICK) is a proactive step taken which will play a vital role in helping those who wish to maximise their potential to the fullest.

What are the changes you wish to see in the Indian education market?
Well known international educational institutes are compared with Indian institutions, but most Indian institutions have yet to progress beyond undergraduate to graduate and research institutions. Nearly 85% candidates enrol for graduate degree programmes. However, only 0.25% apply for higher education programmes such as PhD, of which those completing their PhD programmes is nearly 50%. As per, the National Institute of Advanced Studies (NIAS) it records a total of 45,561 PhDs in the last 10 years Currently, India is far behind in producing scientists to the world giving only 200,000 full time researchers in a population of 1.3 billion making this an alarming statistic. Similar data points have been observed in the medical field which is highly valued. There are 370 medical colleges graduating 50,000 MBBS students which serve India’s population. The shortage of doctors continue to be about 5 lakh to meet the medical needs of our country. Recognising the need for growth, our Honourable Finance Minister in his budget speech laid emphasis on science and flexibility in curriculums.

Is there a need to improve the quality of education in the country? If yes, why?
It is worthy to note that transition from primary to upper primary school increased from 75% to 87%. The plan included recruitment of teachers, construction of school buildings and suchlike to achieve that status. However, due to limited resources at the hands of universities, the scope for teachers/ supervisors has been restrained to classroom teaching, lectures and notes sharing. This is decreasing the competency level of our youth who are the leaders for tomorrow.

Does the Indian academic environment complement higher education overseas?
Investment from Government has fallen and many universities have not recruited faculties for many years which is the main reason for the drop in research projects and PhDs. Not much has changed over the years with the Government investing only about 0.9% of its GDP. In the US, about 400 institutions run PhD programmes and more than 1.35 million doctorates were awarded between 1920 and 1990 where about 62% were in science and engineering. India has faced many fundamental challenges and while it is struggling to provide primary and secondary level education it has exhibited fair success in achieving the Millennium Development Goal of providing universal elementary education.

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