Even as the country today has greater equity and equality in acquiring knowledge, Prime Minister Manmohan Singh on Thursday expressed concern over the increasing privatisation of education and the importance of scholarships and prizes to tide over social and economic handicaps.
“The strength of a nation is no longer determined by the might of its armies. Feudal restrictions and pre-democratic institutions are no longer able to impose social barriers to access to knowledge,” said Singh, while giving away the Infosys Prize 2010 at a city hotel. “With the growing share of privately funded for-profit educational institutes, this may be emerging as a worrisome barrier to freer access to knowledge for all,” he added.
Singh said that had it not been for scholarships, he would not have been able to complete his education. “Scholarships create the foundation of a wider knowledge base that can erect the pyramid of excellence.”
This year, six scientists in various categories — mathematical sciences, physical sciences, life sciences, engineering and computer sciences, sociology and social anthropology – received the awards including a cash prize of Rs 50 lakh for their work that has impacted lives.
Singh referred to the brain drain and young people’s decisions to “leave the comfort of well funded institutions abroad to return home to work in India”.
He pointed out that the country needs senior researchers to spend long durations at one place so that the new breed of researchers can benefit from their intellect and experience.
Singh lauded researchers, who despite various inadequacies in the country’s research infrastructure have stayed back and are producing world-class research. “We must salute their wisdom, grit, determination and their love for their country.”
Chandrashekar Khare, a mathematics professor at the University of California, Los Angeles, who received the award for solving the Serre conjecture, is now looking “for a fresh flowering of the subject in the country”.
“Similar to ancient India that has made significant contributions in math, modern India too has seen some fundamental math theorems being solved,” he said.