Welcome 2012 – The National Mathematical Year in India

Srinivasa Ramanujan

I was very pleased on reading this news that Government of India has decided to celebrate the upcoming year 2012 as the National Mathematical Year. This is 125th birth anniversary of math-wizard Srinivasa Ramanujan (1887-1920). He is one of the greatest mathematicians India ever produced. Well this is ‘not’ the main reason for appointing 2012 as National Mathematical Year as it is only a tribute to him. Main reason is the emptiness of mathematical awareness in Indian Students. First of all there are only a few graduating with Mathematics and second, many not choosing mathematics as a primary subject at primary levels. As mathematics is not a very earning stream, most students want to go for professional courses such as Engineering, Medicine, Business and Management. Remaining graduates who enjoy science, skip through either physical or chemical sciences. Engineering craze has developed the field of Computer Science but not so much in theoretical Computer Science, which is one of the most recommended branches in mathematics. Statistics and Combinatorics have almost ‘died’ in many of Indian Universities and Colleges. No one wants to deal with those brain cracking math-problems: neither students nor professors. Institutes where mathematics is being taught are struggling with the lack of talented lecturers. Talented mathematicians don’t want to teach here since they aren’t getting much money and ordinary lecturers can’t do much more. India is almost ‘zero’ in Mathematics and some people including critics still roar that we discovered ‘zero’, ‘pi’ and we had Ramanujan.

Mathematics

Indian education, divided into three categories: —Primary, Secondary and Higher Education, looks like a mountain climbing after a smooth beginning.

In primary classes, a student is taught about elementary topics (like Elementary Operations, Introductory Algebra and Geometry in Mathematics). Primary classes take about 8 to 10 years. When promoted to Secondary Classes, which are of 4 years exactly, students are distributed among two categories: one studying science subjects (Math, Physics, Chem, Bio etc.) and others not studying science subjects (History, Politics etc.). Only 2 out of 10 students opt for Mathematics. Reason? The students are introduced to some very complicated topics, which are unexpected as primary education doesn’t prepare them well to tackle these. Mathematics suddenly becomes extremely tough to handle and the mathematician dies within him/her. The total eliminators of mathematics are IIT-JEE and AIEEE type exams. These lead students to study in a fast forward way and they start their chase to marks, money and machines. Students who succeed in these exams go for engineering in premier IITs and NITs while others pursue so with private institutes. And here the higher education starts. Out of 10 students passed with Math as subject in secondary classes, 3 students choose to pursue under-graduation with mathematics. There are two ways to pursue under-graduation with Math. First is doing an honors course in mathematics and the second is a regular bachelor’s degree of math with two other science subjects like Physics or Psychology or Geography or Economics. This also divides mathematical interest. And believe me, 90% of these math-undergrads are those who tried for engineering exams but could never succeed. They have no heart with math. They are trained to write in exams. Only 2% of undergrads go for graduation with mathematics. IITs and NITs also operate graduate courses in mathematical sciences, but there are only a few which go for it.

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