Friday, October 21, 2011

Encouraging The Return of Foreign Trained Indian Scientists

India is promising a rapid expansion of its higher education infrastructure. To cope with the demand for well trained faculty it is encouraging the return of Indian scientists who have been studying and researching abroad.

Current Science has carried an interesting series of articles  (all open access) on the problems of meeting the increasing demand for faculty and researchers.

P. Balaram in a lead editorial - citing other indicators such as the willingness of researchers to return - suggests, giving some examples from China that an obsession with foreign trained scientists and a neglect in improving the local talent pool may end up causing some harm to the research environment.

A. Lohia disagrees with the word "Luring" used by P. Balaram in his editorial and expresses faith in the initiatives taken by the government to encourage the return of Indian scientists.

Mukesh Pasupuleti  agrees that the word "Luring" is quite  appropriate. He writes about the experiences of a prospective returnee.


  1. Nurturing indigenous talent in research is something we have to do from childhood. A boy taught in a school where he has to mug up volumes is never going to be a good scientist, and the sooner we realise this, the better.The way we learn doesn't change except for a very few people. So encouraging curiosity is vital at school level-BUT, if we have inquisitive school kids, we need well-read teachers for them-Where do we get that? Today's teacher spent his childhood memorising definitions of inert-pair effect. How is he going to encourage curiosity in his students? It worries me a this self perpetuating?

  2. L- Yes those are the big concerns. since you are in academia do you see any efforts made to change the systems like changes in the syllabus, less focus on exams and more on hands on exercises coupled perhaps with teacher retraining?

  3. No.
    In fact at my University, the ancient syllabus of preparation,properties and uses was once changed to one with more emphasis on concepts and general trends in Inorganic Chem for example. But there was a lot of opposition and now we have a severely watered down syllabus. The problem is that in the district colleges, if we have a concept-based syllabus, the pass percentage slips to below 20% (a very rough figure)and urban colleges fare only a bit better. The mugging up prep/prop/uses gets a pass percentage that's substantially higher. The syllabus is periodically changed and evidence presented to NAAC, but the change is like should I tie a pink ribbon on the package instead of green. The package is the same.
    In the case of exams, it's even worse. The aim is to get a good pass percentage. A good pass percentage looks well in the NAAC report and the state government can boast of greater number of graduates.
    Some of my students are good and few of them are successful in their careers, but the overall picture is not good.

  4. L- thanks for that perspective. grim indeed!

  5. Well, you can't have them back ^_^. At the university I work at, I find the Indian nationalists offer a differing and enriching perspective that is too good to give back easily.

  6. Okay Malcolm.. but then can we at least have some Canadians come over here to teach?