The "Life in IISc" blog discuses a report on the need of undergraduate education at the IISc. This is an interesting topic and brings our today's discussion about undergraduate science education at the state universities (most of them don't teach undergraduate courses directly at the university but at the affiliated colleges). This report has all the important factors why there should be an undergraduate program at IISc, so we will focus on where undergraduate science program at state universities are failing in terms of producing talent needed for industry, research and teaching and what we can do to improve the current situation.
1. first, all is not black when we talk about the undergraduate science programs of colleges. Since there is a big demand in terms of computer literate bachelors students in IT sector, and almost all of my previous students are working at some or other IT company. most of them are the product of either computer courses started at the initiative of UGC or some branch of engineering courses. Can we do better? many of the students I know who are working at IT sector are quite talented and can go for science industry and earn better money and live better life however they don't have enough training.
2. and so comes the second point. when there is question of providing training, our undergraduate science programs lacks seriously. In today's environment, all they can do is to provide training to student to work in IT sector. These students although talented have no training to pursue more competitive programs or go for PHD programs at elite universities. Talent not used is talent wasted.
3. Most of teachers at state universities and colleges have no opportunity for career development. There is no incentive to improve teaching performance or scholarly discussion. There is simple lack of good library and no current knowledge is available to these faculty.
4. Many of the students produced by these state colleges are consumed locally at the education institutes (colleges, schools etc) around these cities, so its ok, but problem comes for some ambitious students who want further growth. There is no exposure for them to see life beyond their own university.
While it is a good idea to start undergraduate program at IISc, what will benefit the big amount of students and faculty of smaller cities is the opportunity to spend some time at these elite institute like IISc and IITs few months. There should be a exchange program for faculty of IITs and IISc with faculty of small colleges and state universities. This will give opportunity for both side to see the world of other side. The 3 months I spent in IISc on a DST fellowship changed my life entirely (I got aware of my potential to contribute to the science, oppertunites available in terms of post-doc fellowships abroad and go beyond) and I wish more and more people get opportunities like that. I hope somebody in government and at the elite institute is listening out there.