Piyoosh Rautela of the Disaster Mitigation and Management Centre in Dehardun is critical of the state of geology education and calls for a revamp of geology syllabus and increased attention to the importance of geology in our daily lives.
He has this to say:
..The passouts of present times know how to determine their location using a global positioning system (GPS) and plot the same in maps created in the GIS environment but are unable to do the same using topomaps and compass/clinometer. To them, compass/clinometer and geological hammer are things of the bygone days...
and more on syllabus..
Geology is one such subject that has failed to keep pace with the changing scenario in most of the Indian colleges and universities. It is still being taught the same way it used to be in the 1960s. This does not imply that the courses have not been revised. There have been some additions and deletions but these have failed to make a perceptible positive impact.
I am not sure I share his perception on point one. I interact with graduate students from the local university and they all seem pretty competent in the use of the compass and in locating themselves on a map without a GPS. They were wielding the geological hammer with gusto too!
But I do think he makes an important point about geology education not keeping pace with times.
Now I hear all the time that the syllabus at post graduate (M.S) level is too "academic" and does not prepare students for industry. I am not too sympathetic to this point of view for a practical reason. I don't see how courses in most geology graduate programs in India can be really "industry oriented" when the faculty have no industry experience themselves.
The education to job pathway followed by a vast majority of academics is an uninterrupted B.S. to M.S. to Ph.D to faculty without any breaks to work in industry. No wonder their teaching methods and contents will reflect their own academic experience. That will be hard to change given this preferred route to professorship.
That doesn't mean that syllabus and teaching cannot be made more effective in preparing students for life outside academia. I think that is what Piyoosh Rautela is getting at. Individual faculty no doubt revise syllabus and teach principles and concepts well. But how do you go from knowing a principle to using it to solve a problem. I think that element is lacking in many geology programs. The habit of critical thinking and problem solving is not being inculcated as rigorously as it should.
I am more worried about this aspect of geology education than a perceived lacuna of "industry oriented" education. A student coming out, sound in principles and a critical thinker will adapt to any industry, which in any case takes up the slack and retrains the new entrant to suit their particular needs.
What will be lacking though if we persist with dull exam oriented syllabus is our ability to produce the next generation of top quality scientists and thinkers. This is worrying because knowledge of earth sciences and geology will be playing an increasingly important role in how we manage our planet in the future.
How should the academic geology community in India contribute to Earth Day?
I do support the usual measures that many people are writing about... take personal responsibility.. live a less consumerist lifestyle and so on.
But if we want to create a sustainable way of life on this planet we need a sustainable stream of skilled human resources. Scientists and intellectuals with the ability to think deeply about today's and tomorrow's problems and propose realistic solutions to them...people with the ability to assume stewardship of the country's development and environmental policies and guide them in the direction of a more responsible and less destructive way of achieving a better life.
And it all begins with how we train our students.
That is the best and most long lasting contribution that the Indian academic geology community can make towards Earth Day. Energize your syllabus, inspire your students and mold them into critical confident thinkers. Create a sustainable source of skilled people who can contribute towards building a sustainable planet.