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What makes IISERs different? – Mohit Satish Tanga

If we were to compare, a rather small number of young Indians choose pure science over technology as a career option. Technical institutes were created to produce world-class technocrats on a large scale and they managed to draw the attention of the masses. The technical institutes produced minds which catered to the technological requirements of the country. On the other hand, universities and advanced research institutes in the country produced the scientists, who unfortunately were lower in number as compared to the technocrats. Science education and research in universities which saw much progress during the Nehruvian phase between the 1950s and the 1970s lost steam. A need for more scientists was felt in industrial research, development organisations and government run science organisations in India. Advanced research institutes in India were doing well but a need for such institutes with undergraduate courses was felt. In this context the IISER’s aimed at providing a platform for a fundamental, free and rational inquiry into science. These institutes were created with the aim of providing research based learning which in turn would attract young minds to the pure sciences. Thus the IISERs today look to reinstate the position enjoyed by universities as a knowledge base during ancient times.

It is but obvious that science led to a change in world view, led to a change in the way of thinking about nature, human existence, philosophy, ethics and society. Many scientists and university courses failed to recognize the humans relation with the world. Through courses such as History of Science and Philosophy of Science, the techniques of rational inquiry can be instilled in the minds of young scientists, making them moral, ethical and responsible citizens. The interdisciplinary courses at IISER aim at non-compartmentalization of science, and focus on excellence.

The IISERs hope to be viewed not just as research institutes but as schools of thought. It will root science into an Indian context and will lead to the progress of a civilization. After all don’t local movements lead to global ones and like Dr. Manmohan Singh, the Prime Minister of India aptly said, “the quantum leap in high quality science education will herald a new era in development of modern science in India. The charter of Indian Institutes of Science Education and Research is to emerge as world-class institutions, both for undergraduate as well as post-graduate education in science, with an intellectually alive atmosphere for research. In these institutions, education will be totally integrated with cutting edge research in various disciplines of modern
science.”

Yes, we have started on the right foot and hope to take IISERs vision forward in a creative and vibrant way.

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