Embassy, Consulate-General, Consulates and NBSO's, India

My India 4 “The best formula”

At secondary school, our maths teacher always told us that in order to become successful in science, we should be so well acquainted with mathematic formulas as to be able to think and to dream not in our own language, but in those formulas. Like we speak our language without thinking about grammar, we should also be able to think in formulas without using language, he said.

Although it is known that the decimal system originated on the Indian subcontinent, before I arrived in India I didn’t know that youth in India does not at all shy away from maths, algebra, and geometry. Many students go for sciences and annually 450.000 engineers graduate at the country’s universities. What makes the difference is of course that the status of engineer (still) is very high in India; parents are especially proud to see their son or daughter becoming an engineer. And to increase their career opportunities many of those engineers add a management or business school degree.

The situation in the Netherlands (and in North western Europe in general) is completely different. Science was and still is not popular amongst our youth. And I remember a newspaper article of fifteen years ago about one of the Dutch universities of technology complaining that in our secondary schools maths and geometry were taught increasingly in language (multiple choice) and less and less in working with formulas. In the mean time this has been corrected.
But today our youth still prefers studies like (hotel-) management, business school and management. Chemistry, electronics, civil engineering, computer science and mining see ever fewer students.
As a consequence the Netherlands have a shortage of engineers. The mayor of Eindhoven (most intelligent city of 2012 award) sounded the alarm January this year. Different figures appear in the press but at a national level the shortage is in the range of 30.000 technicians at the academic level and another 120.000 technicians at the higher, middle and lower vocational level.

One of the reasons multinational corporations invest in industrial activity in the Netherlands is the availability of, the access to well-trained academic chemical, computer and electronics engineers. Luckily enough, our country attracts a great number of foreign students in technology. At the University of technology of Delft Indians constitute the second largest foreign student population. But many of them return to India after finalising their studies.

The economy of India needs its engineers for building the country’s infrastructure, and its industrial capacity. Bangalore and surroundings have a huge supply of science graduates. Thus hundreds of multinationals have set up research and development centres there. Also Dutch multinationals want to tap this reserve of science graduates: Unilever, Shell, Philips, AKZO-Nobel, DSM, 3M, Tom-Tom. Not because engineers are cheaper in India, but because India “produces” engineers. And of course because here is where the market will be. And because scientist in each part of the world differ and have their specific, different strong and weak points. Many Indians, who have contributed to the creation of Silicon Valley in San Francisco, now turn back to their own country.

For the Netherlands it’s crucial that our universities participate in this process in India. Preferably in collaboration the private sector. A good example is the 40 million Euro program of research at PhD level between Shell Bangalore and NOW, the Dutch Scientific research organisation. The universities of Delft and Maastricht are already active in India. Groningen is defining its strategy.
In order to be connected to what is going to happen in Asia universities and institutions should be there, on the spot. So together with Indian universities, institutions and researchers being involved in applied research.
That is the only and best formula.