By Afjal H Mazumder
“I believe in innovation and that the way you get innovation is you fund research, and you learn the basic facts.” – Bill Gates.
Bill Gates aptly sums up the relevance of research as it is one of the practical tools leading us to the path of innovation and discoveries and inventions. Over the years, the importance of research has grown tremendously concerning every field, be it science, technology, education, media, marketing; or simple market research to fit the changing world. In this day and age, there hardly would be any field that would not involve some or the other form of research starting from basic or applied or directed basic research. Good research not only helps in literary advances but also facilitates a better understanding of various concepts, and theories, besides uncovering different areas of expertise and new findings.
Understanding the impact of research holds on different sectors and industries, the Government made a suggestive move through the New Education Policy 2020. It urged the educational institution to engage students in research-oriented projects and papers instead of homework or other assignments to assess their subject skills. Besides, through research, students unknowingly imbibe valuable traits such as critical thinking, analytical perspective, strong communication skills, innovative and creative mindset, decoding complex information, and teamwork. These skills go a long way in their life as well as change the concept of ‘working under me’ to ‘working with me’.
Despite the increasing relevance of research in almost every field, studies have shown a distressing level of engagement concerning research as a practice or a career choice, be it for the corporate, medical, or academic world, especially in India. India has seen generations of students graduating from the higher education system without producing original research, which generates a tangible social impact. As per a report by Observer Research Foundation, as of 2015, of India’s 1.3-billion populations, there were only 216 researchers per million population. India’s investment in research is also dwindling. The Business Standard report carried the findings of an economic survey about India’s R&D spending. It highlighted that India’s gross expenditure on R&D is 0.65 % of its Gross Domestic Product (GDP). It is much lower than the 1.5-3 % of GDP spent by the top 10 world economies.
Therefore, it is a nation’s responsibility to engage youth in research by helping them explore its interesting and exciting aspects. Here are a few tips conversing how Indian educators can make the learners research-oriented and encourage them to take it as a career choice:
Encourage Narrative thinking
According to Bruner (1986), there are two modes of thinking: paradigmatic and narrative. Paradigmatic thinking deals with rational thought and doesn’t involve emotions. On the other hand, narrative thinking helps us orient ourselves as agents in a complex natural and social world and make our experience meaningful (BRUNER 1987). It presupposes personal involvement as it caters to human emotions, ambition, intentions, actions, and experiences. Students often associate research with paradigmatic thinking. Age-old education systems, which focus mainly on grades, created an emotional-cognitive gap between research and the student. Therefore, educational institutions may need to update their approach to encourage their students to undertake research with narrative thinking. Consequently, learners will be able to consider research as a field of personal achievement that leads to significant innovations.
Encourage Active Readings
Today students are accustomed to textbook learning. However, to engage students in research, they must read exciting books, findings, and existing research papers and studies. Educators can create a reading list for students that offer them a vast pool of studies and readings to refer to and stay updated while trying to understand a particular topic or concept.
Making learner as a part of the research
To engage learner in research, they must become part of the process. This can be achieved exposing them to research and participating in research. Discussing and critiquing the merits and demerits of various studies expose students to the entire research process. The same can also be achieved by encouraging students to attend relevant webinars, conferences, and seminars by experts in their respective fields.
The other approach includes creating research apprenticeship programs or project-based programs that allow students to not only participate but also will enable them to design and execute a research project. They can also take up research-related internships, for which the institution gives them extra academic credits.
In today’s age of robust digitalization and advanced technology, research can achieve its optimum goal and generate a much more significant impact through the power of various technology tools. Educational institutions can educate learners about the working of different research-based apps and software, which innovatively ingest data to bring out an authentic, reliable, and understandable report. It also helps students widen their perspectives and develop a rational, non-biased and scientific outlook.
Lecture series by subject specialist
Hari Balakrishnan, a professor at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology (MIT), once said that to make research a lucrative venture for students, educational institutions can invite distinguished people from different fields to showcase the impact of their research. While research is not for everyone, a lot of people need to understand that it is possible to have an extremely comfortable life by focusing on research as a career. Of course, what people crave is the financial aspect. Still, the satisfaction you derive through the impact you create and the fact that you are valued is unparalleled”, he said.
These engaging elements, if implemented sincerely, can help the country give the required impetus to its R&D sector to build a research-oriented ecosystem. However, for a successful transition to a research-based education, all the stakeholders need to join hands, including Government, schools, universities, research institutes, and different industry.
The author of this article is PGT- Chemistry, Modern English School, Kahilipara, Guwahati