Mylswamy Annadurai talks to Express about devising new educational strategies to create a robust work force, inculcating scientific temperament at a young age and bridging the gender disparity in Science.
Mylswamy Annadurai, a distinguished scientist and former director of Indian Space Research Organisation, Satellite Centre, Bangalore, will soon assume charge as the vice-president of the Tamil Nadu State Council for Science and Technology. The role was created only recently, in a bid to expand the role of the council in the State and promote scientific temperament in the population.
As the vice president of the Tamil Nadu State Council for Science and Technology, what role would you be sporting?
The council works towards promoting and bringing awareness about science to both, the young mind and the professionals alike. Along with the council, I will identify young talent and research fellows and help publish their research papers and obtain patents. We will source funds for bright minds to attend conferences and programmes abroad and facilitate access for researchers to enter DST (Department of Science and Technology) projects. The council currently has a modest presence in the State, but we are set to expand it rapidly.
Are educational institutions welcoming to such initiatives? How far are teachers equipped to participate in promoting innovative thinking and asking questions outside the box?
The schools are very open. I have first-hand knowledge on this as I visited several Panchayat Union schools and government schools in the State. One important initiative we plan on taking is the distribution of the Atal Tinkering Laboratory.
It is impossible for someone to do the same job for 60 years in a row. We have to consider that and decide how to mould our students to sustain changing work-spaces and growing technology.
(The lab which is designed to foster creativity and ability to innovate, among youngsters, was brought in by the Centre recently. It aims to inculcate skills such as design mindset, computational thinking, adaptive learning and physical computing). Scientific laboratories come in only in higher grades. This will supplement that gap and help kids find out early if they have an engineer’s mind. The lab will expose them to newer engineering marvels in a fun fashion. Teachers too will have to learn more about this process. They won’t be able to teach this otherwise. It’s a simple way to keep everyone from getting outdated.
What about higher educational institutions? What are the challenges in improving scientific temperament there?
For example, medical students, even before they graduate, get a feel of the real world. They deal with patients and know how to put their knowledge to use in reality. The same should be the case with engineering students. They should be able to correlate their knowledge with the industry. We want to provide them with exposure that will make them industry-ready.
What do you mean by industry-ready?
India has a large number of engineers coming out. If we keep producing the same kind of engineers, their roles will become obsolete. People should start asking progressive questions from school time. With an improvised health system, the productive life-span of people is increasing too. Earlier, people stopped working quite early. Now people work up to 80 years. It is impossible for someone to do the same job for 60 years in a row. We have to consider that and decide how to mould our students to sustain changing work-spaces and growing technology. If they keep getting inbred, there will be a lot of young age unemployment.
Apart from outdating education strategies, what do you think is an overarching problem in the scientific environment in the State?
Gender disparity is an important new dimension to science. It has to be dealt with immediately. I have seen tremendous impacts on projects even if the gap is moderately bridged. The career of several women tapers after a certain age. The council will not only work to identify the underlying reason, but
also come with strategies to combat it.
You had also applied to the post of Vice-Chancellor at the Madurai Kamraj University. Were you surprised when you were not short-listed?
I haven’t been able to find an answer as to why I wasn’t selected. But I did make a sincere attempt. I have found different avenues now.
This interview was first published in NewIndianExpress