In recent years (particularly under the leadership of Mr. Kapil Sibel) a number of far-reaching and revolutionary changes are being implemented in our education system. I have always stressed that the education system is the backbone of any society. If we can develop a good, productive and efficient education system in our country then all other things will take care of themselves. The greatest irony of higher education in India is the compartmentalization of higher education. We have a large number of highly specialized institutions of higher education with virtually no interaction or knowledge about the any other such institutes or discipline of knowledge. (I was surprised to discover a newly opened institute on the Surajkund Road in Faridabad near MRIS and MVN which is called Institute of Traffic Management and is exclusively devoted to Traffic Management).
This is one reason which I believe is responsible for the lack of much original research in India. Specialization is important, no doubt. But it should never be done at the cost of the inter-disciplinary approach. A number of great thinkers have emphasized the importance of inter-disciplinary approach (Functionalist School of thought in Psychology, for example).
It is very difficult for originality come out of specialization. Specialization can create professionals who can very well deal with the existing or known problems in most efficient manner. Of course, we Indians are very good in that. But, when it comes to originality and creativity, then inter-disciplinary approach is the only solution. Creativity was conceptualized by Sternberg as Experiential Intelligence—ability to be benefited by diverse set of previous experiences. So, if our previous experiences are limited to our own field of specialization, then of course, our creativity will suffer.
A number of other thinkers have emphasized the importance of inter-disciplinary approach in education. Unless and until such approach is adopted in India, we can hardly expect a large number of original and important researches. Most of the so-called original researches in India are either inspired by similar research in other countries or a copy-paste type of thing. The development of a society will always be a borrowed development if it is not supported by original research in academics. And for such original research, inter-disciplinary approach must be encouraged.
This inter-disciplinary approach must give enough importance to the field of studies which are roughly clubbed as humanities. Humanities as a respectable and important subject of study have greatly been ignored and grossly under-valued by Indian government and Indian society. As Y. Singh, a noted sociologist in India has aptly said that development of science and technology makes a society modern while the development of humanities (particularly psychology and sociology, I would say) makes a man modern. And for proper development – a development that I would consider worthwhile and desirable – of any society, both type of modernity would be required. Both are indispensible. “A modern man in a modern society” is what is the most desirable. And it is basically for this reason, that I respect American society where almost equal importance, equal respect and equal emphasis is given to both science and humanities.
In India, there is another great irony. In our constitution, encouragement of scientific temper and attitude has included as an important Directive Principle of State Policy and thus, is considered as one of the most important duty of the State to inculcate such temper in the citizen. But the irony is that right from the Independence, inculcation of scientific temper was considered to be equivalent to the development of science and technology. So, Nehru famously said that factories and industries are the temples of modern India. It was true, no doubt. And actually have succeeded in making many such temples. But, here we did a great blunder. We made the temples, but we failed to make priests worthy of that temple. We failed to make people to understand the meaning of that temple, the method of worship in that temple, and to take the benefit of that worship in that great temple. Such priests and such worshipers can be created only by proper study, proper knowledge and proper understanding of humanities – most importantly psychology and sociology. Makers of modern Indian failed to recognize this fact. So, the study of humanities and the fund allotted by the Indian Governments (central and state) to this study as well for doing original research in this field was grossly underestimated and neglected.
Thus, we can find some of the most intelligent contributors in the field of science and technology are one of the most backward and superstitious as a person. They have contributed to make our society modern, but they themselves have remained conservative and backward. I’ve met many students who have spent decades in studying natural science like physics or chemistry, but they do not exactly know what the exact meaning of science is. When asked what science is, the most they can offer is an example of science like physics. They have spent the most of their career doing experiments, but they do not know what exactly experiment means.
It is just like the person who achieves success very easily may not know the value and meaning of success or may not be a very good guide for others to become successful because he has not struggled hard for his success, he did not have to overcome the many obstacles that most people have to encounter and so, does not know how to overcome them. The same has happened with the natural sciences—being science is so natural to them, doing experiment is so natural to them that they do not have to explore the meaning of science or experiment. So they have studied science. They have understood the principles of their own science in which they specialize. They have learnt to use those principles for practical benefits. But, our policy-makers of modern India have failed to realize the fact that these developments are not sufficient to inculcate the scientific temper in humans. Scientific temper, attitude and modernity are the understanding of what science is and not the understanding of a particular science.