Wednesday, December 29, 2010

Science in Indian Education

National Science Day is observed every year on 28th February to mark the novel discovery of Raman Effect by the great Indian Physicist Sir C.V.Raman on this day in 1928. Raman Effect is a phenomenon in spectroscopy discovered by him while working in the laboratory of the Indian Association for the cultivation of Science, Calcutta. After two years of this discovery, Sir C.V.Raman brought the first Nobel Award for the country in 1930. Since 1987 National Council for Science and Technology communication fixed 28th February as National Science Day. The basic objective for observing National Science Day is to spread the message of importance of Science and its application among the people. All the NSD activities are planned around a theme for the year. Some of the interesting themes were; for 2006: Nurture Nature for the future, 2007: More crop per drop.
The role science could play in the development of India was realized by the leadership of the country long before independence.In 1938, Pt. J.LNehru sent a message to Silver Jubilee Session of Indian Science Congress at Calcutta was, "It is science alone that can solve the problems of hunger and poverty, of insanitation and illiteracy, of superstition and traditions". Nobel Laureate Sir C.V.Raman once remarked, "There is only one solution for India's economic problems and that is science and more science and still more science". Homi Bhabha in 1966 while addressing the International Council of Scientific Unions, in Bombay, remarked "What the developed countries have and the under-developed lack is modern science and an economy based on modern technology."

Pt. Nehru's dream was of modern prosperous India propelled by Science and Technology. Naturally school science education received special attention in the brave new world of Nehru's India, though not in systematic fashion. After independence major break through came in Indian Education System with the implementation of Kothari Commission's Report. Learning of science became compulsory both for boys and girls from class first to tenth. Previously learning science was an option for girls and boys used to begin it after class fifth. At present superior strength of school system is in the area of mathematics, physical and life sciences. Creativity and innovations are not too remote for Indian School Students. Every year hundreds of schools arrange/participate in science exhibitions of the objects created by school students in mega-cities. Some of the projects are prized at national and inter-national level. Some of our students participate in International Science Olympiads and win prizes.

But there is other side of the picture. In almost all the states and in the majority of the schools there is a trend of including more and more content overwhelmingly in the form of factual information in the syllabus. Laboratories in the schools have declined and even of demonstration once common are now confined to elite schools. Factual information that dominates the syllabi is not supported by any kind of activity. Students therefore have no option but to memorize the facts. Consequently maximum number of student's find science not only difficult but boring. Little effort is made to get to the roots of students difficulties. Teachers fail to develop in the students basic concepts which are built on the previous knowledge of students. Learning science for life is almost ignored. In each class, science is learnt to prepare for next higher class. As a result majority of students don't want to opt this subject beyond class tenth. Not long ago, a study conducted by National Council of Applied Economic and Research revealed that less than three percent of school students want to pursue a career in science. It is because that the current education system in schools lays emphasis on rate learning which apparently fails to kindle interest in Science.

Beyond the higher secondary stage, too little of the zeal for science finds its way into the University system. There are vast dragnets of engineering, technology, medicine and so forth, which draw the best scientific talent away. In 2003 a study conducted by "The National Institute of Science Technology and Development (NISTAD) revealed that between 1992-2003 both at plus two and college levels in Delhi, priority for science discipline as a whole was on decline. The data of college enrolment in sciences between 1990-91 and 1997-98 revealed that on an average about 48 percent of the students drifted out of B.Sc Course to join professional courses. These students were those who got admission after securing 80-90 percent marks at plus two levels. The choice of the National Talent search awardees also reflects this trend. In recent years, of the 750 awardees hardly 100 opted for science and only 15-20 percent pursue science to the post graduation level.

The B.Sc course for instance has failed because it is over regulated and standardized, so much so that a student has no say in selecting his subjects of study. We are in a situation where the system makes decisions for the students. Allotment of the subjects to the students is just like a 'ration card mentality'. It is rarely that students with obsession and passion for science enter the portal of colleges and universities that offer science courses which constitute "catchment area" for serious scientific work. Even those highly motivated who choose to remain in science and move into universities for post graduation and research are confronted with outdated curricula, disinterested teachers, un-inspiring teaching and poor infrastructure. In fact 88% of the students who opt for science are studying in affiliated colleges. Most of these colleges, flout the rules prescribed for teaching science by University Grants Commission. For their part, Universities have long abandon the accent on research and have merely become counters killing the enthusiasm even of the few motivated students.
The reasons for this mass exodus of brilliant young persons from science to professional courses aren't far to seek, One obvious explanation is that a career in science doesn't pay and those who still continue to be in science do so as a last resort. They are there, 'unmotivated' and 'un-interested'. To cap it all that is, the authoritarian attitude of Indian scientists in 'commanding positions' either at the universities or in national science laboratories have done much to drive away precious science talent. Indian research contributed a mere 2.16% of world's science and technology publications between 1993-2004. One of the factors that has marginalized Indian Science is the extremely meager support forthcoming from budgetary resources. Not even 1% of GDP goes to Science and allied research.

This year's Noble prize for chemistry has been given to Venktaraman Ramankrishna of Baroda, presently in Ohio University. Decades ago he failed to clear medical and engineering entrances conducted by IIT. He also appeared in the entrance test for reputed Christian medial college in vellore but was unsuccessful to get a seat. Now the evaluation methodology of entrance tests conducted is being reviewed and the role of coaching classes which teach 'tricks of the trade' to get through is also being sought out. After his post doctoral degree in science in eighties, Venktaraman Ramakrishnan applied for a job in about 50 Indian Universities but failed. There seems to be something wrong with our methods of selection of teachers in our universities.

At a public lecture at the Indian Institute of science campus, Bangalore, Venktarman was asked by a member of the audience if he had plans of returning to India. He said, "No". There are some rules essential for science to thrive. Apart from material infrastructure there needs to be an intellectual freedom, where there are no masters but only disciples. It must have people who are committed. Science is not a career or a profession but a way of life. Knowledge is built that way. Sometimes a discovery here and a proof there, shakes or even destroys the very edifice, no discouragement that the building again starts brick by brick. It is this situation which is exciting about science. This kind of set up may not be available for Venktaraman in India.

Tuesday, December 7, 2010

Valentine Day

February 14 is Valentine’s day. The day make us think of lovers. Pink, pastels, flowers, candy are all special things for the special day.

    Roses are Red

    Violets are Blue

    Let me count the ways that I Love you.

February 14, 2009 is Valentine’s day.  The first thing comes to our mind is Valentine’s for lovers. Two people in love, teenage love, husband and wife love and older love. The day make us think of lovers.  Valentine does not have to be about two people in love but all the other people in our lives that deserve to be recognize as being special in our lives.

Valentine’s day is such a special time of the year. The excitement that  Valentine’s day bring, should be felt all year long not just on one day. We use candy, flowers, jewelry and cards to say I love you instead of  saying what can I do to make your day better.  To forget 364 days of the year to say and do things to show our love ones we care but on one day go overboard with the gifts.  We try to show someone that we love them on one day Valentine’s Day.  We should just remember to say I love you everyday and give gifts any day to show our appreciation not only when it is a specific holiday.  It don’t have to be an expensive gift a homemade gift, card, muffins or breakfast for a love one can mean so much.  Poetry is a nice way to remind someone of caring, or understanding the feelings of another.

What are your plans for Valentine’s day, A special Dinner, Play, movie or just spending time with the special people in your life. Don’t forget your flowers, candy and cards or the special person in your life may think you don’t care.  With the economy slow down, it may be fun to look to other alternative ideas. Coupons for a car wash, 1 week of cleaning services, and a special home cook meal.  It is always fun making cards with the young ones and baking cupcakes to give to their love ones, it gives them pride to show that something they made with their hands means so much to their loves.

What ever you do have a lovely day and Love yourself.

Thursday, December 2, 2010

Benefits of 3G Technology

Like GPRS, 3G (third generation wireless technology) is a wireless communications service that lets you stay permanently connected to the Internet via mobile phone, handheld computer, the Tablet PC or laptop. 3G technology promises better quality and reliability, faster data transmission and higher bandwidth (which includes the ability to run multimedia applications). With data rates up to 384 Kbps, almost seven times faster than a standard telephone connection.This allows us to have video calls, as these calls are made with a direct Internet connection Telme offers this service for free.

3G (or 3-G) is short for third-generation voice and data transmission via mobile phones. The technically correct definition is UMTS (Universal Mobile Telecommunications Service. Universal Mobile Telecommunications Service)The services associated with the third generation provides the ability to transfer both voice and data (a telephone call or video call) and non-voice data (such as downloading programs, exchanging email, and instant messaging). Although this technology was aimed at mobile telephony, in recent years mobile operators offer exclusive access to the Internet using USB modem, without having to buy a mobile phone, so any computer can have Internet access. There are some ultraportable devices such as (netbooks), featuring the modem built into the computer, but require a SIM card (which they carry mobile phones) to use, so in this case it is necessary to be discharged with a phone number.

What are the benefits of 3G technology?
It says users of GPRS and 3G are "always connected", since these methods of connection have permanent access to the Internet. Through short text messages, field employees can communicate their progress and request assistance. Executives who are traveling can access corporate e-mail, just as can a salesperson, you can also consult the inventory. You can automate your home or office with GPRS and 3G devices to monitor their investments.

How 3G technology will change our lives
Below is the  synopsis of how the introduction of 3G services by telecom operators will change our lives in response to our reader invite (below).

Having raced to the bottom in their voice tariffs and saddled with low average revenue per user, Indian carriers are seeing hope with the launch of 3G services.While MTNL and BSNL had a lead of almost two years they have failed to make the cut because of their lack of understanding of the desired device and content ecosystem.

Tata DOCOMO, Aircel, Reliance Communications and Airtel have launched their 3G services and it's expected they will heavily rely on smartphones, application stores and multimedia content to evince interest from the consumer.As already proved in western economies consumption of data has been the single biggest factor for change in the fortune of carriers.

As we start to talk about what this means and where this will lead to let's take a look what 3G means and how it will change the way you consume telecommunication services and products in India in the years to come.

3G networks are more efficient than 2G networks because of the wider frequency band that they operate in. This means higher bandwidth content such as music and video can be effortlessly streamed over the network. There are many competing technologies within 3G, however the most preferred across the globe is High Speed Packet Access (HSPA).

Airtel and Aircel have chosen HSPA while Tata DOCOMO and RCOM have selected an even more efficient version HSPA+ (Evolved HSPA) that promises even greater network speeds.HSPA+ is the same technology that T-mobile is rolling out as 4G in the US.HSPA gives a download speed of 14 Mbps (megabits per second) and an upload speed of 5.8 Mbps.HSPA+ gives a download speed of 56 Mbps and an upload speed of 22 Mbps and supports Internet Protocol (IP) architecture. In contrast 2G working on GSM/EDGE technology gives a measly data speed of 56 to 360 Kbps.

So for a country that loves to talk what difference does high speed Internet make?It does and that is where the whole ecosystem, demographics and the content ecosystem dovetail perfectly.A simple but startling comparison is a good place to start: In a population of 1.2 billion there are just around 40 million PCs neatly overshadowed by 600 million mobile phones.

In India where the fixed line network is scarce and inefficient 3G technology marks a huge connectivity leap and should be hailed as an enabling technology in bringing Internet connectivity to all.This means that a phone can be used to watch live TV, used as a virtual phone using a Voice Over Internet Protocol (VOIP) service, do video-conferencing using Skype, use Facebook, Orkut or Twitter, listen to live music from Internet radio or a music service like Spotify, share photos, use as a tether to download books and play games.

This shift is also expected to give a boost to the fortunes of the application developer community in India, not a big one at the moment and more used to working on pre-historic Symbian platform that has been chugging along because of Ovi music.

The mobile app development market is a huge opportunity and if valuations of certain companies like Foursquare and Rovio are anything to go by it has the potential to create a new industry in India.

Few of the companies like Hungama Mobile, OnMobile and IMIMobile are moving out of their VAS legacy to embrace this new reality. Various indicators such as strong mobile advertising numbers from Inmobi, mobile marketing, huge VAS content consumption and several mobile banking and payment ventures are encouraging enough to indicate a latent mobile commerce appetite.

Other than the crucial infrastructure upgrade, carriers have been busy lining up content, smartphones, data plans along with a strong marketing exercise to educate customers. Here is a lowdown on the essential components in this ecosystem.

These are virtual stores through which consumers can download software applications for their mobile phones. Software applications could be anything from gaming, document manager to a train timetable application.

Some of the applications are free and supported through advertising; others carry a monthly subscription fee while few of them carry a one-time download fee.

Typically carriers have their own app stores however the experience from other markets tells that carriers do not provide a great experience.

Tata's is called 3G Life services, Aircel is busy promoting its Pocket Apps, Bharti has come out with App Central and RCom has been working behind the scenes with GetJar to launch its app store.

The biggest winners will be Samsung, Nokia and Apple who have an established App store and provide a quality that cannot be matched by carriers.However, there is a strong market for regional content and none of these providers has anything to vet that appetite.

Phones that support 2100 MHz frequency will work on 3G. Most of the smartpones built in the last two years should support 3G. However there are a few that support only GSM/EDGE frequencies.

So what are smartphones?
If you have in hand a phone with the processing power of a computer it's called a smartphone.HTC Desire, Samsung Galaxy, iPhone 4 are few of the smartphones that boast of 1 GHz processing power along with a smart UI, HD playback and some cool features such as accelerometer, digital compass and GPS.Nokia N8 launched recently lags behind in its processing power and the UI.Naturally these phones also excite developers to develop applications that fully utilise the device capability otherwise risking disengagement with the consumer.This is the reason why device manufacturers and carriers are finicky about quality of mobile applications in order to maintain a higher quality of engagement with their consumers.

Advertising and marketing
Monetisation of content is the key to rewarding all participants in the ecosystem. Similar to Internet advertising, as mobile viewership will increase, brands and advertisers will start promoting themselves on mobile phones.The ad revenue generated goes directly to the app developer with the carrier and ad network retaining a cut. This is a big opportunity as most of the users prefer a free application or content and advertising is a primary medium to incentivise the developer.As shown in the developed markets mobile advertising has grown multi-fold in the last one year moving into sophisticated formats such as proximity advertising and instant promotions.

Data plans
After having done all the effort this is where the carrier expects a lift in its topline. At the moment most of the data plans have been tiered based on data consumption and future plans will evolve around usage patterns.For example, if a user spends most of the time on Facebook than an unlimited Facebook plan can be purchased.Similar plans would be available for Skype or heavy chat users.With a surge in traffic these kinds of plans will help carriers optimise traffic and better utilise existing assets.The possibilities are endless and we have just scratched the surface.