Few takers for Maths has scholars worried
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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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