PUNE, INDIA: Prime Minister Manmohan Singh Thursday expressed concern over the declining number of youth opting for science courses after the 10+2 stage and urged the need to bring them into the fold of exciting and stimulating research environment of colleges and universities.
Speaking at the foundation laying ceremony of the Indian Institute of Science Education & Research and the diamond jubilee celebrations of the National Chemical Laboratory, he said the government has undertaken significant expansion of the education system, including science education, at various levels.
"However, we need to do more, we need to improve the quality of teaching of science in our schools, focus on faculty development, increase expenditure on science and technology from the current low of about 1 percent of our GDP, and further strengthen academic-industry interface," the prime minister noted.
He cautioned that India's competitive advantage in the research and development sector may be lost unless it is ensured that the country produces, on a continuing basis, an adequate number of competent and motivated youngsters to lead its national laboratories, science agencies and knowledge-based industries.
Manmohan Singh said the country looks up to its premier scientific institutions like NCL for finding solutions to some of the most vexing problems confronting its society and development efforts.
"Our scientific labs must align their priorities even more closely to the national needs and contribute to the creation of wealth in our society," he urged.
He called upon the scientific community to seek and deliver appropriate solutions which would change the lives of the most vulnerable sections of our society.
"It is our scientific capabilities that will determine our ability to overcome challenges which lie ahead in areas such as climate change, clean energy, environment-friendly technologies, water management, affordable healthcare, food security and biotechnology," the prime minister pointed out.
He added that the government has declared 2010-2020 as the "Decade of Innovations". "We need to instil the spirit of innovation in our young minds to enable them find solutions in a variety of areas to achieve the goal of inclusive and sustainable growth," Manmohan Singh urged.
Innovators must be challenged to produce solutions the society needs in a timely manner, and must then move out of the laboratory quickly and gain wider acceptance, he said
Manmohan Singh also paid rich tributes to NCL on its diamond jubilee milestone and said that it has had "a lineage of distinguished leaders who have guided its destiny with great distinction".
NCL, with its traditions of excellence in scientific research, has nurtured some of the best minds in India and many scientists from it have been elected to distinguished academies of sciences in India and abroad.
The prime minister said NCL made a seminal contribution to the emergence of Indian pesticides industry which was critical to the success of the Green Revolution, and post-1970, it gave birth to the Indian generic drug industry which later paved the way for a vibrant Indian pharmaceutical industry.
In recent times, NCL has contributed to the growth of petrochemicals, polymers and the fine chemicals industry.
The prime minister expressed hope that with its world-class facilities, NCL would sustain this culture of excellence and continue to explore the boundaries of frontier sciences.