Flagging the issue of India's poor contribution in international scientific research, Prime Minister Manmohan Singh has asked institutions of higher learning to make collective efforts to "improve" the present state of affairs.
He also said UPA's nine years of rule has seen "unprecedented" expansion of the education system at all levels as the government believes that a skilled workforce is critical for rapid socio-economic progress of the country.
"As far as higher education in science and technology in our country is concerned, there are massive challenges that lie ahead. To give an idea of where we stand today, India's research output as global share of scientific publications was a mere 3.5 per cent in 2010 whereas China's share was 21 per cent in 2007...," he said.
Addressing the conference of Directors of National Institutes of Technology (NITs) here, Singh pointed out that the total number of patent applications filed by Indians in 2010 comprised only 0.3 per cent of the total applications filed globally.
Also, the country's share of global research and development investment is as low as 2.2 per cent, much lower than 9.2 per cent of China and 32.4 per cent of the US.
"The Directors of NITs have a very important contribution to make in our collective efforts to improve this state of affairs," he stressed.
But at the same time, he said that the UPA government in its nine years of rule has laid special emphasis on education and the period has seen an "unprecedented expansion" of the education system at all levels - primary, secondary and higher.
The gross enrolment ratio for higher education grew from 12.3 per cent in 2006-2007 to 17.9 per cent in 2011-12. The growth of enrolment in engineering saw a phenomenal 25 per cent increase during the 11th Plan, he said.
"These efforts have been driven by the consideration that a skilled workforce is critical for rapid socio-economic progress of our country. It is essential to improve access to education and also its quality if we are to take full advantage of the large proportion of young men and women in our population," the PM said.
Referring to the growth in higher education, Singh said Referring to the growth in higher education, Singh said during the 11th Plan, 65 new central institutions were established, including 21 central universities, 8 IITs, 7 IIMs, 5 Indian Institutes of Science Education and Research, 2 Schools of Planning and Architecture, and 10 NITs.
He pointed out that enrolment in higher education grew from about 166 lakh to about 260 lakh during the Plan period. Appreciating the role of NITs, he said they contribute substantially to the technical manpower requirements of the country's expanding economy.
"They (NITs) are expected to produce engineering graduates comparable in quality to those produced buy our premier institutions like the Indian Institutes of Technology," Singh said.
He said as the quality of the faculty critical to the achievement of the goals that have been set for the NITs, the Kakodkar Committee recommendation on periodical external institutional evaluation should be implemented at the earliest.
"This I think is a good recommendation which would help improving quality of teaching and research. I would urge the respective Boards of Governors of NITs to act on this recommendation expeditiously," he said.
He said another recommendation of the Kakodkar Committee set up to review the functioning of NITs is an innovative measure for augmenting research and teaching simultaneously through the 'Trainee-Teacher' scheme.
Under this scheme, the top 15 per cent students of NITs and other centrally funded technical institutes will be selected for PhD programmes in IITs and at the same time be appointed on contract to teach in an NIT while still pursuing their Masters-cum-PhD degree. "I would urge careful consideration of this recommendation in an expeditious manner," he said.