Few takers for Maths has scholars worried

Last Updated: Monday, August 23, 2010 - 21:25

Hyderabad: Mathematicians in India fear a
"crisis" looms over the future of mathematics in the country
with the younger generation of students turning away to other
disciplines rather than pure mathematical studies.

"The number of takers for the subject in the country
has over the past few decades reduced and this is leading to
some kind of a crisis. This may affect the future of
mathematical activity in the country," eminent mathematician
from the Tata Institute of Fundamental Research Prof M S
Raghunathan observed.

Many Indian mathematicians attending the ongoing nine-day
International Congress of Mathematicians too have echoed
similar concerns on the issue.

The increasing number of students preferring disciplines
like engineering, information technology and management is
leaving little number of wards for mathematical research,
particularly in basic maths, they said.

It is a matter of concern that the number of bright
students getting admitted to higher studies in mathematics is
gradually coming down in India. Actually, in the past
two-three decades the inflow of talented students opting for
pure math studies has reduced and this is leading to some kind
of crisis, Raghunathan said.

Bright students after their school education are seeking
careers in engineering and medical courses for big salaries,
he pointed out, adding, "hence we are not finding good quality
(competitive) people to teach math at the higher levels."

"We are not finding good quality math teachers in
higher education and we need to make the academic profession
more attractive. Maximum math graduates should be absorbed
into teaching particularly in schools that would also help
improving quality of teaching right from the school level,"
Raghunathan stressed.

He pointed out that there was lot of demand for math
graduates in different fields while opportunities were aplenty
in teaching positions in most of the Central universities that
could fetch them high salaries. "Hopefully, the next decade
would witness more students joining math studies in the
country," he said.

R Ramanujam of the Chennai-based Institute of
Mathematical Sciences said, "It`s certainly a cause of concern
that lucrative IT and MBA careers are drawing students away
from research in mathematics and the sciences. But, I
think reports that India is heading towards a "zero
production" state in the field of maths are highly
exaggerated."

He noted that the problem was not the lure of money in
IT, management and business administration alone but far more
with the decline of undergraduate math education in Indian
universities.

"Students hesitate to commit themselves to mathematics at
the UG level because the number of institutions offering
quality education is very small. This applies to other basic
sciences as well," Ramanujam pointed out. Another delegate and author of several books on
mathematics, T K V Iyengar, said,"The best students of maths
at school and Intermediate level opt for engineering courses
and hence the number of talented people opting for maths
studies has gone down tremendously. This has affected the
quality of student research in the subject."

Srinivasa Varadhan, a former mathematician at the
Indian Statistical Institute and 2007 winner of the Abel
Prize, said,"We need more people into basic research. Our best
students are going into engineering or other careers, no doubt
motivated by financial security. If more people were present
and the number of basic research institutes was increased, the
next 10-15 years would see more high-class work."

To promote youngsters who are interested in research
in math, the ICM has sponsored the participation of 400
research scholars from across the country interested in
attending the event, organisers said.

-PTI

First Published: Monday, August 23, 2010 - 21:25

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