PM signals new revolution in science education

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Visakhapatnam, Jan 3: Prime Minister Manmohan Singh today said his Government would take all steps to launch a new revolution in modern education, especially science education, to realise the country's development ambitions. ''We cannot afford to miss the bus nor can we afford to delay matters further," Dr Singh said, inaugurating the 95th Indian Science Congress at Andhra University, and invited the science community to participate in the new agenda of science and education in India.

''The time has come for action, and I assure you my highest personal commitment to such action,'' he said, and stressed the need for institutional, organisational and policy reforms, and extra investment in science education. Pointing out that climate change posed a great and new challenge to the country's developmental prospects and to the livelihood of those living on the edges, he said a model alternative to the western model of wasteful consumption and environmentally-harmful industrialisation should be adopted.

''... the world cannot walk down the path of environmentally harmful development (Carbon dioxide emmisions) that developed industrial economies have pursued thus far.... They must bear the greatest responsibility for correcting the damage,'' he said at the Congress whose theme was 'Knowledge-Based Society Using Environmentally Sustainable Science and Technology' He emphasised the need for improving the quality of data and analysis of available data, especially with regard to climate change.

''We need data on what is happening to the Himalayan glaciers.

Not just on what is happening on our side of the border but on the system as a whole.''

The Prime Minister listed five major areas for the application of modern science and technology on a war-footing, and suggested setting up of a monitoring group for each of them. The five areas are: Food production and use and conservation of scarce water resources; energy generation and utilisation; manufacturing technologies; mass transport systems; and building and construction technology.

On the energy security front, Dr Singh asked the scientific, technological and business communities to make a concerted effort to develop solar energy.

In a passing reference to nuclear energy, he said atomic energy can also make an important contribution to energy security in the long run.

''It is this perspective which has led us to seek the removal of restrictive regimes which prevent India from participation in international trade in civilian nuclear materials, equipment and technologies,'' he said.

Regretting that many of the roads in urban areas provided no space for pedestrians or bicycle riders, he said such a situation must change.

''We need environment-friendly public transport solutions that are affordable by all,'' he said.

Reiterating his Government's commitment to investing ''much more'' in education, especially science education, he said disciple-specific education programmes would be launched in strategic sectors such as nuclear sciences and space sciences to capture talent at the ''plus two'' stage.

''At the last Science Congress I gave you my assurance that we are willing to increase the annual expenditure on science and technology from less than 1 per cent of our GDP to 2 per cent of our GDP in the next five years. This assurance stands.'' To attract the best and the brightest students to science, he said, the country needed an army of teachers, especially in basic sciences and mathematics.

''Shortage of good teachers is an immediate challenge,'' he added.

Later, Dr Singh presented the Indian Science Congress Association awards to eminent scientists, including M S Swaminathan and M G K Menon.

Science and Technology Minister Kapil Sibal, Andhra Pradesh Chief Minister Y S Rajasekhara Reddy and Prof R Ramamurthi, General President, 95th Indian Science Congress, also addressed the gathering.


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