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Monthly Archives: August 2013

Secret of Prosperity

– Ananda Kafle

Department of Natural Sciences (Chemistry)

The later decades of the 20th century are marked as the period of a rapid growth of technologies. Beside information and communication technologies, significant developments have been achieved in a multitude of areas including agriculture, power generation, alternative energies, industrial productivity, etc. For developed countries, scientific innovations and researches have for long, remained an inevitable tool for strengthening national economy. The foundations of the 21st century identity of India and China as rapidly growing world economies were laid with the governments’ acceptance of the importance of science and technology in development.

Realization of the value of science and technology by the Chinese regime following frequent blows from Europeans in the 19th century enabled the sector to regain its pace, that was lost four centuries before, when the monarchy withdrew its interest on the subject assuming it to be trivial. Until the 14th century, when the country had its well flourished scientific innovations, China used to make remarkable contribution in the Asian economy. Especially, the four Chinese inventions – papermaking, gun powder, printing and compass (known as the Four Great Inventions) are appreciated for the prominent role they played in the then China. With the efforts of modern Chinese reformists, the science and technology sector of China has been flourishing as an independent discipline.

The field of scientific research and development is increasingly gaining higher priorities in China. The average increase in the Gross Domestic Expenditure in Research and Development (GERD) since 2000 is by 22.8%. The highest fraction of the allotted budget now is being spent in experimental developments and attempts are being made to raise the investments in applied researches. Higher expenditures in researches and an enthusiastic involvement of the business enterprises in the sector are playing important role in increasing the GDP. The multilateral efforts have made China able to rely on its own technological innovations to some extent. The ongoing developments in indigenous technologies are manifested in the fields like agriculture, manufacture of electronics, production of synthetic goods etc. All things together, are establishing China as a leading economy.

The well flourished economy of the ancient Indian subcontinent was contributed by their innovations in the then relevant areas like shipping, mining, baking earthen artifacts etc. The prosperous Vedic community was enriched with discoveries on medication, astrology and mathematics. The technologies blooming here earlier had greatly increased the power of this community among human civilizations. Inability of the scientific community to keep the spirit of the novelty and discoveries eventually kicked the territory back from the technology scenario.

In the colonial period, the British emperors had brought along with them the power of science and intellect, which in combination with the tactful political strategies, they used to dominate and rule the Indian society. After independence India’s economic growth is greatly contributed by innovations in technologies, especially in automobile engineering, nuclear science and information technology.

Some powerful political leaders in Nepal take the abutting Indian states as development models for our own country.  The economic growth in different Indian states including those lagged behind in mainstream development are a consequence of the increasing investments that the government has been making in the field of scientific research and technology development, coupled with improved  governance. Even in the time of harsh economy it has been making a 1/5th increment in science budget every year. Indian agriculture is not limited in development of dams, irrigation facilities and proper supply of the farm essentials, rather, is getting increasingly assisted by most modern technologies. Besides, the industrial sector including automobiles, textiles, pharmaceuticals, software etc are vigorously growing. The nations that are in the race of becoming the prospective world powers have been using science and technology as the most efficient tool to accomplish their purposes.

While the two large neighbors are making a big hop in development and use of technologies, the situation of our own is the most disappointing. We are not simply lagging behind with regards to the scientific innovations, rather, have not even started walking. Our agriculture sector, which is claimed to make the highest contribution to the GDP, has still remained within debates of how to augment the farm yield from traditional methods. Instead of being grown through the application of modern technologies, many of the industries are getting closed. The possibilities of using native technologies in agriculture or industries are still like a far cry.

The scientific research sector has always remained staggered by the government’s indifference, corruption and uncertainty. The organizations like Nepal Academy of Science and Technology (NAST), Nepal Agricultural Research Council (NARC) etc. and the universities in the country, which are supposed to be the centers of research activities have almost become non- functional. Instead of carrying out their actual job, the officials are busy pleasing the political power centers for their own development. This sector has been polluted by the political and bureaucratic influences. Instead of the scientists, the bureaucrats are making themselves the real leaders. General complaints are that the largest fraction of the scanty amount of budget that is allocated for scientific researches is either embezzled or is spent for purposes like international visits of the officials. Most of the scientists, who are working on the grants from foreign agencies, spend their skills on planning how to manipulate expenditures so that a large amount of the grants goes to their own pockets.

If we are to move ahead in the race of development and increasing national prestige, all the rubbishes associated with the scientific communities must be removed and technological innovations promoted or else, we can’t be upgraded from the status of the mere consumers of foreign products and gadgets.

(The numerical data presented are based on the official information from the concerned governments and authorities.)

(Earlier published in Republica, 7 August 2013)

 
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Posted by on August 23, 2013 in EXPRESSIONS

 

Dealing with the Thinking

– Hem Raj Kafle

In teaching spontaneity has a greater power than planned outpourings though planning is fundamental to traditional theories of teaching. Spontaneity brings out original thoughts. It corresponds with the need of the circumstances, and creates the most suitable statements to the mood of the audience. No doubt, planning is useful. But it depends. Is what we deliver a set of PowerPoint slides prepared ages ago, and printed, photocopied and handed to the dear pupils in each session for their exam-time convenience? Or is it a formal lesson plan designed for a specific class situation, which the teacher updates every session, and which helps augment students’ learning through self-study, reflection, internalization and reconstruction?

I usually do not work with readymade handouts; I only reflect on and take notes of what I might say in the class, to compel myself to deliver the best from the internalized knowledge. My initial classes are filled with guidelines, not necessarily in the form of setting rules for students. I say that certain rules, like giving regular classes, making students regular and conducting tests are my works, but my being a leader automatically draws students towards them. I say I would not repeatedly remind them of the rules because I consider the students mature enough to understand the right ways; they should know that by making them work I am adding to my own stock of responsibilities.

I think the best thing I tell them is that a human being is a thinking and feeling creature and therefore has to save herself from being a machine. Life is less formula than feelings though formulas help shape a section of our professional future. Our lives are also guided largely by the works of others, or say, the thoughts of others. This sets for us the requirement to be associated with people who think and create ideas. Teachers seek this association in other teachers, and also with students. Students have teachers and their class fellows to fulfill this need.

I do not forget to explain the rationale of prescribing the contents of the courses. Every theme has a purpose, way beyond a compulsion to study and take exams. My first lecture explains why we teach a story in place of the other, how one text relates with the other and with the lives of the readers as well. Moreover, I make it a point to show what one gets to learn from certain writers and texts. I work in full adherence to V.S. Ramachandran’s warnings: “Did you enjoy doing what you did?” and “Did it really make an impact?” To me joy  is what I feel from being able to make students realize the value of learning. And the impact need not always be outward, directed to changing our surroundings. It is equally important to experience some kind of transformation in ourselves. Any academic, creative task we do in a university should have the quality of giving direction to at least a few people including ourselves.

My classes teach me to teach better.  I  like to treat every new student as a mysterious stock of knowledge, sentiments and challenges. If you take her as a mere creature, you will not see her beyond a semester. If you take her as a thinking and feeling being, stop for a while to meditate on the potentials she bears. This is why I love to share the fancy of being old and mature and useful so that the students might fancy identifying with this vision of being old and mature and useful. This is called making people think beyond rules and formulas. My contribution in this sense lies in instilling, and sometimes reviving, this humane sense out of the monotony and rush for driving towards dreams and fulfillments.

This is why the readymade slides and handouts work  only little with me. I do not either regret for not having any of them because I do not identify my success as a teacher with the sight of students breathlessly cramming slides and handouts few minutes before the examination bell. My satisfaction rather lies in those contented faces, which head smugly in and out of classrooms and exam halls  on all seasons. I have all reasons to be happy for this notoriety of discouraging mechanical learning.

 

 

 
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Posted by on August 19, 2013 in EXPRESSIONS, Reflections