IISc was given Rs. 100 crores in the last budget to help it upgrade to world class. However, IISc director P.Balaram points out, quite rightly, that
Rs. 100 crores may look like a big sum, but it is not much. Every new laboratory that comes up costs us at least Rs. 40 lakhs. The new institutes that the Ministry of Human Resource Development is building in Kolkata and Pune have a budget of Rs. 500 crores... Let us be clear. IISc. cannot become a Stanford or a Harvard just because it got a Rs. 100-crore grant. That expectation is unrealistic. It can begin modernising its facilities with the grant.Basically IISc will spend this money to
- Modernise physics and biology labs
- Digitise books in IISc library
- Start earth sciences department
- Focus on emerging areas of nanotechnology and nanosciences
However there is something else that I saw in Abinandanan's post which is worrying me. Regarding a proposal to start undergraduate program, he quotes a news item on The Hindu, 29th October 2005:
The proposed undergraduate programme is contingent upon acquiring the land as the present campus does not have the infrastructure to meed the demands of an additional undergraduate programme.I am surprised about this. If IISc doesn't show commitment to undergraduate education, how do they expect to create good enough students at the graduate level? Creating a new set of faculty members will not be a solution. I would even go so far as to say that any funding to IISc must be contingent upon them starting the undergraduate school and agree to create a certain number of undergraduates every year.
However, the idea has evoked a mixed response among the IISc faculty. Several of them feel the establishment of an undergraduate programme will take away from the institute's avowed focus on research. "The workload of teaching undergraduates is far too much. Many of them have to be spoon-fed," says a senior faculty member.
Acknowledging the ambivalent response, the senior faculty member involved with the initiative says that even if an undergraduate programme is established, there would be no need for current faculty members to be concerned because new faculty members will be hired for hte undergraduate programme. "We will probably go on a faculty recruitment drive by which a whole new group will be added."
I have looked at the Madras University syllabus for BSc Physics. A nephew of mine is studing in a local Chennai college. The syllabus is horrible, the teaching is atrocious. Three years of junk. I recommended a few basic physics books to get him inetersted in physics (as opposed to writing and cracking the useless exams). His college library doesn't have Feynman Lectures. They have couple of copies of Asimov's "Understanding Physics", but there is too much demand. You can't have it for more than 15 days. I am sure there are several other recent books (which I have not heard off), but none of that will be there in the local college library.
While it is going to be difficult to improve the standard of undergraduate science education across the country, effort should be made at least in a few locations. IISc cannot shirk its responsibility in this regard.