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Research: A Culture Innate in Us!

India is known as the land of seekers where people are always full of questions. Our ancient literature speaks about 64 arts which can be classified into four branches

·      Fine arts – E.g. music, dance, literature, sculpture painting. Language of heart.

·      Creative arts – E.g. creating furniture, plastic, day to day living material, architecture.

·      Scientific Art – E.g.: physics, chemistry, biology

·      Commercial Art – E.g.: trade and trade secrets

The Gurukula system focused on learning; the research was embedded in it. Gurukula system emphasized on Shravanam (listening), Mananam(continuous reflection) and nithyadasanam (deeper contemplation). This process builds a research mindset. To gain a deeper understanding of difficult concepts, debates and discussions were the keys. Today students spend most of their time in rote learning, preparing for competitive exams and reproducing the textbooks. Though there are projects which helps students reflect, a healthy environment, time for reflection, critical commenting and debate is missing. Or should we say, they are not inspired enough to continue with contemplation?

We must learn to contemplate and stay with a topic else the ability to understand the depth of things is shunted. Young minds have to learn to respect questions and understand the vagueness behind it to clarify them. But are we doing it in our institutions? Some institutions adhere to the syllabus and are more inclined to complete syllabus. They may not work at the speed of the child.

But to foster inquisitiveness, interpretation and reasoning in children they must learn to ask the right questions and get the right attitude towards questioning in order to cultivate research mindset. Institutions can do this only by promoting a culture which is open to questioning, strong debate, tolerant towards mistakes, promote self-inquiry, not be judgmental and work at the speed of the child. Thinking of vehement debate, I remember the story of Shri Adi Shankaracharya and Mandana Misra which shows the true spirit of debate. Children must be consciously exposed to contemplation and debate. Only then distilled knowledge will be generated. Every child has something to offer to the world. The effort of the institutions is to help children find that spark. Institutions must consciously build an ambience which will promote such a mindset. Easier said, but any culture takes time and right drivers to make things happen.

National Education Policy (NEP) released on July 31, 2020, aims to revamp the education system in India. It has stressed on the need for inculcating research in educational institutions. NEP proposed the establishment of a National Research Foundation for funding research and to actively seed research in universities and colleges. Also, NEP recommends research as an important element for the career progression of teachers. One important question is to understand if teachers are interested to pursue research. Some are happy with the teaching. They are interested to improvise, improve and enhance their teaching capabilities. One the other hand is to understand if a researcher has the adeptness to teach. Teaching is not an easy job; it is an art and a passion for many, while research alone is a passion for many others. NEP does offer flexibility for students and the education system, but it must also give freedom to faculty to choose one over the other and not make it mandatory. While it is true that research enriches the content for teaching, faculty may not have the appetite for research. While NEP is doing its part in bringing the research and innovation culture, maybe more freedom should be given to the teacher to pursue their passion.

Students can be mentored and counselled to find their interest and reduced pressure on Higher Education Institutions(HEI) to perform might fuel research culture to blossom. On the other hand, a workable model which HEIs can use to easily build the research culture is the need of the hour. Only then, as Dr Pranab Mukherjee, our former Honorable President once mentioned “Why can’t we have a Nalanda or a Taxila now?” will be answered.

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