It dates more than two decades back when Indian strategists gauged the significance of innovation and pronounced the decade 2010 - 2020 as the Decade of Innovation. This declaration was furthered through various initiatives including the policy documents on science, technology, and innovation. Recent years have witnessed reasonable focus for sincerely trying to create enabling environment for fructification of innovations at every level. Kudos to Government for all efforts to expand the culture of creativity and innovation through National Innovation Council and similar bodies.
There are pieces of evidence of integration of innovation with the higher education to the extent that the UGC conceived the framework for Innovation Universities in the country. It is amply evident that any country’s global competitiveness is evinced through its contribution to the good of society and economic wealth. Priority areas have been laid down from time to time and the engagement of academia has been there through financing of major projects, restricting the wider participation due to limitation of funds. It is quite likely that some of the creative ideas die in the primitive stage for the lack of financial support.
Philosophically, the quality of higher education gets enriched with the involvement of teachers, students, and community in innovation. The students entering the higher education system after completing higher secondary education need to be engaged in nurturing their critical thinking for problem-solving to sustain and upgrade the civilization. The education system should be capable of synthesizing the higher cognitive abilities of students for expanding concepts and knowledge base. Undoubtedly, the mammoth size of our higher education system catering to the demographic dividend holds enormous potential for becoming one of the major players in innovations across the world.
In spite of this period being Decade of Innovation, the ground realities leading to dismal performance of most precious and premier institutions of the country among the world Universities need introspection in specific respect to the their performance in patent volume, patent success, global patents, patent citations and their impact, patent to article citation impact, industry article citation impact and industry collaborative articles and web of science core collection of papers. It is evinced from the world rankings that the institutions lack in one or more of these aspects.
Superficially, one can make out that there is lot of talk about the creativity and innovation, while the effective engagement and motivation to the students for the same are either missing or insufficient in the majority of higher education institutions. The teaching-learning processes are carried out in a conventional manner with nearly rigid boundaries of the curriculum with limited opportunities for inculcating the real-life problem-solving abilities. A look at the situation shows that the institutional functionaries consisting of teachers, academic administrators, and students may have their own limitations in facilitating creativity and innovation. From student perspective, the higher education is merely perceived as a road for securing job with decent package and it seems to be biggest deterrent in enhancing their involvement towards innovation.
There is no dearth of capability of human minds in thinking creatively, but the challenge lies in giving it final shape in the form of innovation. These challenges vary for different stakeholders in the higher education system. Such as teachers, who are the mentors for the students may have limitation in terms of scheduled completion of syllabus, compliance to prescribed curriculum, insufficiency of time for allowing the students to apply the knowledge sought, lack of motivation for research & knowledge creation, certain disregards to merit in career progression, inadequacy of physical infrastructure, funding etc.
While on student front, their creativity is unable to see the light of the day due to paucity of time, coverage of curriculum, evaluation & examination system, unavailability of adequate infrastructural and financial support, challenges of employment for livelihood after completion of a course, perception of society towards the very meaning of education being for survival alone in most of the cases, less risk-taking capabilities, bleak enablers for carrying forward the innovations till the stage of commercialization, etc.
Third and most important contributor in achieving the goals set for higher education being the institutional governance, seems to have its own limitations of having inept leadership, poor funding, delay in removal of obsolescence in facilities and upgrade of infrastructure, traditional policy framework, resistance to out of box thinking, inadequacy in the participative functioning of the institutions, weak linkages with civil society, lesser confidence of community towards the institution etc.
The time is ripe for exploiting the fertile minds of youngsters by motivating them for getting involved in real-life problem solving and offering adequate mentoring with all necessary enablers. Though a lot of initiatives like innovation challenges, hackathons, etc. are being held across the country for encouraging the students to think creatively, participation is not in very large number as compared to the total number of eligible ones. The complete higher education system should be slightly reoriented to ensure total engagement of the students registered in it for being creative and innovative for local and global problem-solving.
It seems that In view of some of the issues mentioned herein, it is inevitable to honestly introspect and overcome the limitations in nurturing the creativity and innovation of students pursuing higher education in the golden era of demographic dividend availability with the country. It goes without saying that the deliveries will come through passion and not under pressure, therefore the education system should be holistically embedded with the enablers for harnessing their passion for being creative.