Rejuvenation of science education, research in Kerala

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Chief Minister Oommen Chandy releases the draft Kerala Science and Technology Policy by handing over a copy to R.K. Sinha, Chairman, Atomic Energy Commission, during the inaugural function of the 25th Kerala Science Congress in Thiruvananthapuram in January.— Photo: S. Mahinsha
Chief Minister Oommen Chandy releases the draft Kerala Science and Technology Policy by handing over a copy to R.K. Sinha, Chairman, Atomic Energy Commission, during the inaugural function of the 25th Kerala Science Congress in Thiruvananthapuram in January.— Photo: S. Mahinsha

During the 25th Kerala Science Congress held in Thiruvananthapuram in January this year, Chief Minister Oommen Chandy, who is also the Minister for Science, Technology and Environment, released the draft Science and Technology Policy for the State. The purpose of presentation of the draft policy guidelines at the largest gathering of scientists and technologists in the State was to invite suggestions and inputs for the policy framework from all stakeholders. The draft policy document is in the open domain for critiquing, inputs and discussion at all levels.

Over the past two months, the Kerala State Council for Science, Technology and Environment (KSCSTE) has been conducting discussions on the draft policy at various expert committee meetings, seminars and conferences. The council is currently organising a public hearing and discussion meetings on this document in different regions of the State. The deliberated revisions and suggestions will be appropriately incorporated and the council will provide the final revised Policy Document to the government by the end of May this year for adoption, following standard procedures.

It was in 1974 that the Kerala government adopted a Policy Resolution on Science and Technology based on the recommendations of the State Committee on Science and Technology. In 2002, the Government of Kerala reviewed the structure of the Science, Technology and Environment Committee (STEC) and restructured it as the Kerala State Council for Science, Technology, and Environment (KSCSTE). In line with the Science and Technology Policy 2002, the Department of Science and Technology and the KSCSTE have been making quality interventions in the scientific and technological development of the State, science education, scientific research, environmental protection, traditional systems of knowledge and innovation. A chain of research and development institutes has also been built during these years.

The government set up a separate Department of Science and Technology in 1972 to foster scientific research in different disciplines as a tool for the contextualised development of Kerala. During the last four decades, ever since the creation of STEC, through the various schemes, projects and institutions, multifarious activities have been undertaken by the Department of Science and Technology. These interventions have added value to the entire science and technology enterprise in Kerala.

Kerala has also formulated Programmes of Action in tune with the changing phases of the National Policies in Science and Technology. India’s Scientific Policy Resolution (SPR) of 1958 which resolved to “foster, promote and sustain the cultivation of science and scientific research in all its aspects” continues to influence the scientific activities of the State even now. The Technology Policy Statement of 1983 (TPS) and the National Science and Technology Policy (STP) of 2003 have also found appropriate place in Kerala’s strategic interventions in science and technology.

The State has been continuously integrating programmes of socio-economic sectors with research and development interventions to address its development priorities. This has also helped in imbibing an innovation culture.

In line with the objectives of the 2010-2020 National Decade of Innovation, various committees of the Government of India have been working for the last two years for the formulation of a new Science, Technology and Innovation Policy for the country, which was released by the Prime Minister at the 100th annual session of the Indian Science Congress held in Kolkata in January 2013.

12th Plan recommendations for S&T development by the Kerala State Planning Board

The State Planning Board had constituted a nine-member committee chaired by C.G. Ramachandran Nair, the former Chairman, STEC, in 2011.

The committee had a series of interactions with planners and scientists at all levels and submitted a concrete set of recommendations for the scientific and technological development of Kerala in terms of human resource development, new institutions and short-term and long-term projects.

The State Planning Board, KSCSTE, and the Department of Science and Technology, Government of India, together organised a consultative meeting on Centre-State Technology Partnership in the context of Kerala’s development. The consultative meeting which involved 90 domain experts at the Central and State S&T sectors was jointly coordinated by K.M. Chandrasekhar, the then Cabinet Secretary, Government of India, and P. Prabhakaran, the then Chief Secretary, Government of Kerala. The secretaries of Department of Science and Technology, Department of Biotechnology, Indian Council of Medical Research, Indian Council of Agricultural Research, Defence Research Development Organisation, Vice-Chancellors of Universities in Kerala and representatives of almost all the science and technology organisations/institutes in Kerala provided inputs for the State in Centre-State Technology Partnership.

Emerging Kerala 2012 — S&T interventions: The S&T interactive session at ‘Emerging Kerala 2012’ summit organised by the Government of Kerala provided specific inputs for formulation of effective public-private participation strategies in science and technology-based skill development specifically for the State. The Biotechnology Policy, Environment Policy and the Industrial and Information Technology Policies of the Government of Kerala were also put in the context of S&T priorities.

The recommendations were considered by the various expert committees of the council in the formulation of various schemes and projects.

The Kerala Science&Technology Policy 2013 document is a focussed consolidation of all these recommendations.

Overall policy vision: The overall policy vision for the S&T Policy 2013 is ‘Science, Technology and Innovation for Sustainable Development and Inclusive Growth in the socio-cultural, geographical and economic context of the State of Kerala.’

The vision seeks to develop quality human resource and create a critical number of scientists working in each and every scientific discipline relevant to the development of Kerala.

Delivery of science and technology-led solutions for improving the quality of life of the people and the environment is the one of the major thrusts of the policy. The issues of rejuvenation of science education at all levels, capacity building initiatives in basic sciences, promoting technology innovations, advancing scientific research in cutting-edge areas, and S&T- based skill development and entrepreneurship among students are given thrust in the policy.



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