We owe a lot to the Indians, who taught us how to count, without which no worthwhile scientific discovery could have been made. – Albert Einstein
India, being home to one of the oldest known civilizations of the world, has definitely educated many in one way or the other. Be it Aryabhatta, Bhaskaracharya or contributions such as the concept of zero, astronomy, gravity, trigonometry, algebra, infinity, measurement of time, calculus and decimal system among others helped shape the modern world. The world’s first university was established in Takshila (now in Pakistan) in 700 BC. More than 10,500 students from across the world studied more than 60 subjects. The University of Nalanda (Bihar, India) built in the 4th century was one of the greatest achievements of ancient India in the field of education.
Ayurveda, one of the earliest schools of medicine known to mankind, was India’s gift to the world. The Father of Medicine, Charaka, consolidated Ayurveda 2500 years ago. Apart from this, Quadratic Equations were used by Sridharacharya in the 11th century. The Indian scholars used numbers as big as 10*53 (i.e. 10 to the power of 53) with specific names as early as 5000 B.C. during the Vedic period. This is when the largest numbers used by the Greeks and Romans were 106. Today, the largest used number is Terra: 10*12 (10 to the power of 12), which points to India’s advanced education system even then. It’s remarkable that over 2600 years ago Sushrata and his team conducted complicated surgeries like cataract, artificial limbs, cesareans, fractures, urinary stones, and plastic surgery and brain surgeries. It comes as no surprise that Sushruta is regarded as the Father of Surgery. In ancient times, the usage of anaesthesia was well known in Indian medicine. In many Indian texts and scriptures, detailed knowledge of anatomy, embryology, digestion, metabolism, physiology, etiology, genetics and immunity can also be found.
Looking at the glorious past of India’s education system, one finds it difficult to imagine that today not a single Indian university features among the top 200 in the world. With IIT-Bombay ranked 222nd in the world, the Indian universities are yet to find the edge over other world class universities. The problem lies in the proportion of international faculty and students. However, things are not as bad as it seems.
While Indian software industry contributes its expertise and skills to 90 countries, India contributes nearly 30 per cent of the global annual supply of graduate engineers. Approximately, 38 per cent of America’s doctors are trained in India, pointing to India’s strength in the sector and in the world. This is not all, 36 per cent of NASA scientists, 34 per cent of Microsoft employees, 12 per cent of scientists in USA, 28 per cent of IBM employees, 17 per cent of INTEL employees and 13 per cent of XEROX employees are Indians. Indians have settled in almost 200 countries owing to their knowledge and expertise.
This shows that Indians are self-sufficient when it comes to education. However, there seems to be difference in alignment of what educational institutions are offering and what the students and employers demand. This also impacts the corporate world due to the lack of trainers and researchers. For example the IT industry ensured that they created centres where people can come and get trained to become software programmers. Similarly, for different sectors to thrive in the developing nations, trained professionals are required. This can only happen with education and skill development. It is believed that India has a good number of schools, colleges and universities but the quality of education remains of poor quality.
The major focus of the Indian education system has been establishment of schools and colleges everywhere when there is lack of quality trainers available to teach the children and youth. Many believe the tie-ups with foreign universities improve the quality of education. Of course it does, but India needs to develop its own quality institutions with more emphasis on PHD and research infrastructures. India definitely has the potential of becoming the global education hub but before that, it needs to increase investment in research in academic institutions, in association with international faculty and students. India also needs to encourage innovation in academic institutions. The promotion of technology based innovation will not only attract students from other nations for research in India but also bring improvements in the economy. As the world looks at India to lead global growth in the years to come, a genuine push towards making it an innovation and education hub will eventually help improve the education system in India.
By – Rahul Choudhury