The article “The grand challenges of Indian science” (Dec. 14) by R.A. Mashelkar makes many pertinent points. Undeniably, one has to inculcate a questioning attitude and keep the flame of curiosity alive in young minds to nurture a scientific spirit. Our education system not only kills such an attitude but does little to make science interesting to school and college goers. We have many youngsters with degrees in science. But most of them do not have an understanding of the basic concepts. Such a situation does not augur well for even routine research, let alone Nobel Prize-winning innovation.

Apart from a shift in the culture and content of education, one should look at ways of creating interest in science, and of identifying and attracting those with an aptitude for pursuing research. This process of attracting and promoting the best talent is what Dr. Mashelkar refers to as ‘elitism.’ One must remember, however, that the Ramans and Ramanujans of the future may also well be among the many who do not have access to education because of their socio-economic location. Thus promoting elitism in science may well be achieved by democratising basic education and the access to it.

Chitra Kannabiran,

Secunderabad

* * *

The thought-provoking article turned my attention to the existing science classes in our schools. Can our classrooms realise the true objectives of teaching science? Do we foster a scientific temper? How many innovative scientists have become science teachers? Challenges abound with respect to not only science but also science teachers.

Kunju Muhammed,

Perumbavoor

* * *

I would like to add to the list of challenges mentioned by Dr. Mashelkar. Lack of encouragement or recognition of ideas is an important factor that kills innovation. What is worse is the apathy of those who are responsible for killing innovation.

V. Srinivasan,

Madurai

* * *

It is not clear how to generate great ideas and attract real talent to science. In spite of untiring efforts and offer of reasonably good incentives, it is difficult to attract outstanding talent to basic sciences, let alone the humanities, at the school or college level. The attraction towards IT, finance, marketing and the like is so strong that youngsters cannot be prevented from pursuing a career in them. Outstanding brains show only a second preference for science and humanities.

R. Narayana Iyer,

Thiruvananthapuram