Guest #1: An Exclusive Interview With A Renowned Mathematician, Dr. Satyaki Mazumder of IISER Kolkata

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Dr. Satyaki Majumder, Assistant Professor, Department of Mathematics & Statistics , Indian Institute of Science Education & research, Kolkata talks to The Scientist Post and highlights his amazing experiences as a teacher. He provides deep thoughtful insights on the current education trends in the country, in addition talks about his wonderful memorable days of the past.

Here is the interview:

TSP: How were your experiences as a student during school, college and graduate days?
I mean what are the most memorable events in the past which makes you laugh even today?

 

SM: I had a number of experiences while growing up. I don’t want to get into the nitty-gritty’s of it so I would sum it up.

My time through school and the college was very enjoyable. Those were the building blocks for me. I remember one event in particular. Once I along with some friends of mine set a completely broken chair for our mathematics teacher in school to get rid of
mathematics class for ever. Somehow he got that and we were beaten up heavily.* He continued with a chuckle* Guess, everything was as enjoyable as I thought they
would be.

TSP:As you mentioned that school was the place which determined the path you were about to traced. So, what fascinated you to be what you are?
What made you come to the decision that you want to be a Mathematician?

 

SM: Truth is I never liked science much. It is that arts or commerce were more awful to me. No, I have any dream to be a mathematician ever and not now also.

TSP:Surprisingly, you say that you weren’t fascinated by science still you chose to be a teacher. So, what made you opt for the teaching profession instead of
other jobs related to the same field? Was there a particular reason which motivated you?

 

SP: Three of my school teachers motivated me to take this subject. Shanti ranjan Pal and Srikumar Gosh were two statistics teacher in our school.
They really encouraged me a lot to take this subject as profession. I must say about our head master, Prabir Gosh, he repeatedly mentioned that
I should not take statistics because I did not have a good result in Madhyamik,that statement actually made me little curious about the subject
and that helped me a lot.

My experience with teachers and as a teacher is wonderful. The amount of love I got and still getting from students is beyond my expectations.
I guess the idea of imparting what I know is the reason why I chose to be a teacher.

TSP:According to you, what is education? Why is it important? How education helped you to become what you are today?
What is your message for the 58 million out-of-school children?

 

SM: To me education is the power which makes a person confident, logical and humane. By education, I think you mean formal school education.
I do not believe that formal school education really gives me more than degrees with which I can and I am earning a good amount of money in our society.

I believe formal school education helped me to learn my various languages. With those languages, I am able to read few interesting things about the world.
It is really difficult to give a message to all out-of-school children without knowing the real reason which resulted in them dropping out.
So, I am sorry about that. I think a thorough revision of our education system is the call of the time.

TSP:According to you, what is the biggest challenge in reducing the dropout’s rates? How can the society tackle this challenge?

 

SM:The children are moving out of school mostly because they have to earn a livelihood. Many a time, students lose interest in studies but a section of parents
(middle class or upper middle class) support their children during that bad time, trying to find out what the problem is or where the child’s mind revolve
i.e. their interests. However, for marginalized rather the economically-deprived people, education isn’t that big a deal (in general). They send their children
to earn, which is the most important aspect to them.. Once a child gets the taste of earning money it is very difficult to bring him or her back to school.

The society has to ensure minimum need to everyone so that everyone can continue doing whatever they like. The change in the economic structure is essential.
Slowly but steadily, things will change and this question and the ambiguity in it would become history.

TSP:What are your views in the current happenings of Indian Science & Technology? Why it is seen that Indian citizen scientists are deprived of Nobel Prize,
though various steps are taken in promoting science & technology in the country?

 

SM:My personal view is Indian science and technology is not doing great. It can do better if more freedom is given to the scientists.Personally, I do not believe
in prizes so I do not want to comment on that. India accounts to a meagre 3.5% of all global research output and ranks 66th in the Global Innovation Index
far behind China which ranked 35th.India spent only 2.9% of the world’s total expenditure on research against China which spent 14.2%. We filed only 0.3%
of the total worlds patents in 2010 and the worst of all is the university grading.Not even Indian university ranks among the top 100 global universities,
though IISc and IITs makes the headline bold quite sometimes!

TSP:Narendra Modi is the newly appointed Prime Minister of India for the tenure of 2014-19. . What expectations do you have from our newly appointed PM in
taking India to the next level of development? We are about to have more number of IITs and IIMs, according to the union budget. Do you feel our policy makers
are concerned about engineering and technology, and management just to appeal to the youth or do they have a keen mind for taking the nation forward?

 

SM: First of all, the data shows a really poor stand point of India when it comes to science.However, the statement “spent only 2.9% of the world’s total expenditure
on research” is although correct but a little misleading.When we compare with world’s total expenditure it really may not sense much, because India is still a poor
country.Its total expenditure compared to world’s expenditure may be negligible and hence it is natural that the percentage spent on the science compared to total
world’s expenditure will turn out very small compared to others. Nevertheless, the situation is really alarming.

Yes, Narendra Modi is newly elected prime minister. It will be very nice if we see some different approaches to the education system. However,
the education data on Gujarat does not really give us much hope. Personally, I feel that unless we strengthen our primary education system we may not be able
to get the level that we are looking for. We have to get big mass of people under the proper education.For that, more investment from “Modi Sarkar” for primary education
is what I can hope for. Also, a thorough revision of education system is expected. It is too early to comment on anything about our newly elected government.
I agree with your view that more number of IITs and IIMs will appeal to the youth. Although more science institutes would have been better.Also, we have many universities
around the country. I think initiative should be taken so that those can become centre of excellence for science.

The fellowship for research scholars should be increased right now. There should be some incentive for youth to come into research.To attract more good students
some basic faculties to the students should be given, for example a reasonable amount to fellowship, a good health care and a good research environment.

I think I already answered this question earlier. I again mention here that importance on primary education should be increased. Otherwise there is no point in spending more
and more on higher education; it will become just putting oil on oily head. A thorough change in education system is needed. Since it is not independent of economic system a
suitable change in economics is also needed so that everyone can get the basic need in their childhood.

For higher education more freedom to teachers and research scholars should be given so that they can carry out their research with joy.
Then only they can take challenging problems as their project.

TSP: 58% of children do not complete primary education in India. According to Annual Status of Education Reports (2012), estimates that only 50% of rural children enrolled in
standard five can fluently read a standard two text book.40% of standard five students in rural India cannot solve simple two-digit subtractions. 29.3% of India’s
population falls in the age group of 0-14 years.Primary education lays the foundation towards building a pool of capable and empowered citizens. Investments in education
will enable the citizens to participate in the growth process through improved productivity, employment, and wages. This would surely drive sustained economic growth for decades.
Hence, primary education should be a critical component of the inclusive growth agenda of Indian government.
We all know education is a universal human right and everyone should be well acquainted with it but the reality is far behind in the 21st century.
Being the largest democracy in the world and also constituting a firm judiciary since ages,although we have many laws, still we can see children working as child labours,
the innocent children being victims of human and organ trafficking, etc and thus losing their lovely childhood.

How do you see education and its necessity? Where are we lagging even though we have many considerable policies for child welfare etc.? Why is it so that many parents
and guardians are irresponsible of sending their children to schools and instead make them earn a living by working in and as labourers?What are your views for enhancing
the status of education in the ground level, keeping in view and in light with the children of poverty stricken and illiterate parents,and other socio-cultural factors?

 

SM: To me, education is a power that makes a person confident, logical and human. To me education does not mean “western education” only.Definitely I believe a certain level
of “western education” is needed.However, I think we should also recognize “Lokavidya” as education. Bu Lokavidya, I mean knowledge with the people in society.
Lokavidya resides in society, outside colleges and universities.Peasants, all kinds of artisans, adivasis, those who provide the services and do the repair work,
the small pavement retailers, women, people’s artists, and all these people earn their livelihoods and govern their lives based on their own knowledge, lokavidya.
They are the masters of this education. Unfortunately enough our society is not ready to recognize them as educated people and they are being exploited by the society all the time.
“Lokavidya” should be recognized and a proper earning system should be provided to them so that they can also at least earn as much as a lowest paid government employee earns.
For more information and discussion on this topic you may go to www.sanhati.com , there is a complete booklet for “Lokavidya”. In a nutshell, I think, our view towards education has to change.

No policies, no act can stop marginalized parents sending their children to work, it is question of food. Food has more priority than school education.
Government should ensure the fulfilment of basic needs for all the people then only situation may change.The mid-day meal that the government started a few years back was a great move.
State should make the mid-day system more efficient.For that the number of employees to each school needs to be increased. Moreover, general people, those who are in a stable
situation need to take responsibility so that the marginalized students can get support. The students, teachers should come forward to form small groups to teach poor children in different localities,
to encourage them to go to school with a proper logic, to give them a different environment so that the poor children can feel that there may be a better life with proper education.

TSP: Moving on, we know that ensuring safety and empowerment of women is a major concern in India today. . Sadly, about 10% of all crimes committed in the country are those of women abuse. 30 lakh children were lost to female infanticide during 2001-2011.
A woman is raped every 20 minutes in India. Even after 60 years of independence, 1 in 3 women in India are still illiterate. Low participation of women in the entire workforce is a key reason for low per capita income. Paradoxically, with the increase in
economic development, there seems to have been deterioration in the status of women. Recent and legacy of incidences of rapes and molestations cases have highlighted the grave situation of women in the country.We are all horrified with this current scene,
as they are soaring high daily. Indian girls and women are facing a tough time. What is your view about this issue? Why it is that our sisters, mothers don’t feel safe outside? How can these horrendous crimes be stopped? Do you think the government is
taking active and strict measures to stop the crimes? But, why it is that the society/government is failing to stop and curb out this crimes?

 

SP: There are couple of things. First of all if we look at this problem in short term then I will say our law is strong enough but the police has to be more proactive in these particular cases, secondly a protest,
a fight against such incidents should come from the mass because in most of the cases the police is controlled by political parties. However, these are temporary solutions.

Now if we look this problem in long term, we have to solve this problem from root and that is not possible until patriarchy is discarded as an accepted norm.

TSP: To sum up the interview, what are your views about our upcoming “The Scientist Post Youth Citizen Journalism Forum initiative”?

SM: This is a very impressive and encouraging project. I hope this magazine will make a difference to the view that the mass has towards education. Besides taking interview of “scientists”, you can
also take interviews of education activists and come up with improvisational ideas.

Guest #2: An exclusive interview with Jyothilakshmi R. of MS Ramaiah Institute of Technology, Bangalore

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