| Education minister Himanta Biswa Sarma at T.C. Girls’ High School in Guwahati on Friday. Picture by UB Photos |
Guwahati, Sept. 28: The Assam government has finally hit upon the mantra for peace and stability: make the state’s Generation Z more science savvy.
The state’s education minister, Himanta Biswa Sarma, had this to say to justify this philosophy: “No state can progress if science is not popular among the youths. One of the prime reasons behind states like Karnataka, Andhra Pradesh and Tamil Nadu leaving us far behind is the development of science education. Can we recall how many scientists the state has produced in the recent years?”
Sarma, who was speaking at the inauguration of the second state-level science exhibition and project/model competition under the INSPIRE award scheme at TC Government Girls’ HS and MP School here, said the decline in the number of students pursuing science in higher education was one of the reasons behind unrest and instability in the state.
He said only 20 per cent of the students pursuing arts stream courses could be accommodated in gainful employment while the rest remained idle despite possessing various degrees. This often forced many to stray in the wrong direction.
Sarma said India was one of the few countries in the world known for inventions in science and mathematics from ancient days, adding that many saints in India advocated use of science for systematic analysis of various events.
Under the Innovation in Science Pursuit for Inspired Research (INSPIRE) Award scheme introduced by the Prime Minister Manmohan Singh, an amount of Rs 5,000 is given to two students (one from the Class VI to VII group and one from the Class IX and X group) selected by headmasters. These students have to prepare science models which are first placed at the district-level exhibition-cum-competition and then at the state level. Some of these projects are then selected for the national-level competition.
“Assam has nearly 10,000 schools having students from Class VI to VIII. In accordance with the norms of the INSPIRE award, the state’s schools should have produced 20,000 science models every year. Unfortunately, the schools could produce only 1,000 projects in 2011. The figure has doubled and 2,000 projects have been presented this year. But this is simply not enough and clearly shows how reluctant our students are to pursue science education,” Sarma said.
The minister said even a Maoist-infested state like Chhattisgarh had been able to produce 14,942 science models under the scheme last year.
He said schools in the state must produce 10,000 models under the INSPIRE award scheme from next year and added that headmasters and science teachers would be held responsible if schools failed to meet the target. “My department will conduct scholarship examinations for students of Classes V and VIII from this year and select about 25,000 students from each standard on merit for annual scholarships. Each selected student will receive a scholarship of Rs 5,000. The money will be kept in fixed deposit accounts and the students will be able to withdraw the amount with interest later to pursue higher studies in science.”