Saturday, October 10, 2009

For The Sake of Science

A hundred years after its establishment, Indian Institute of Science has decided to launch an under-graduate programme in science at its Chitradurga Campus. This would not only give smiles to many young students of the country who want to pursue science in college (but are unable to do so because of availability of very few of good colleges teaching pure sciences) but also provide a boon to basic science education, which is, somehow, losing its glow in front of the glitterati of engineering and management courses.

The program, like the institute offering it, would be unique of its kind in the country. Unlike the conventional three year graduate course in science, it would be a four-year duration programme. According to the IISc proposal, the structure would give enough emphasis on research work. The first three years (or six semesters) would be dedicated to the strengthening of basic knowledge of science, mathematics and engineering subjects while the fourth year would be reserved for research work. And here comes the icing on the cake: the Humanities courses would be mandatory. And there would be ample choice of courses from history, sociology, management of science and technology, and others. The structure of the programme would also be kept very flexible. According to an IISc professor in charge of academic affairs:

“An interesting feature of BS is a student specialising in physics can take, say, 70% of physics and combine it with 30% of biology or chemistry and a chemistry student can specialise in 70% of chemistry and opt for 30% physics. The plan is to make BS flexible to give students a lot of options.”

 This is in very much contrast with the under-graduate programmes at the IITs where flexibility in the structure is very rare. And this flexibility would surely increase the interest of the students in the courses they study.

The programme will be geared to create interest in higher studies and research and would be on similar lines with the ones offered at Harvard or California Institute of Technology. Moreover, a four year BS programme would never mean a loss of one year for the students as the students can directly get enrolled for PhD after the completion of four years. And since the programme includes engineering courses as well, a student can opt for engineering courses for masters and higher studies if he/she wants to change the field.

So when do we get to see undergraduate students finally? It depends on government clearance after the academic plan is finalised. Hope our honoured Minister of Human Resource Development is quick in taking a decision here as well!!

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