Science Magnet Schools in India; planning commission has approved them; Kapil Sibal urges IISERs to support them

Following are excerpts from a report in Pioneer.

The meeting also stressed on the need the need for increasing the student intake in these premier institutes of Science and Research and urged the IISERs to support the proposed Science Magnet Schools to attract students early in life to the realm of science.

Ten such elite residential schools first of its kind in the country have been approved by the Planning Commission. These schools would teach only science to students from Class IX onwards and will offer them opportunities to interact with top scientists.

Following are excerpts from

He appreciated the willingness of the IISERS to support the proposed Science Magnet Schools to attract students at their early age to the realm of science.

… Sibal also called for a good eco system in and around the IISERs through interaction with institutions located in the state. The progress made in this regard would be reviewed in the next meeting to be held sometime in June, 2012, an official press release added.


March 10th, 2012

Even generous scholarships are not able to entice good students to pursue science; Only 15% of the available 10,000 INSPIRE fellowships are availed

Following is an excerpt from a report in Times of India.

Three years ago when the Innovation in Science Pursuit for Inspired Research (INSPIRE) scholarships were instituted, the ministry of science and technology had hoped that this would encourage an estimated 10,000 of the top 1% students across all boards in the country every year to take up science at the undergraduate level (not professional courses) and eventually move to research.

Since then, some 8,500 scholarships have gone abegging each year, causing serious concern among ministry officials, who are now thinking of commissioning a study to find out where the "missing" students went….

INSPIRE was designed to attract youth to study science and take up a career in research in the country instead of moving abroad or entering the burgeoning pool of professionals — of both management and science — in the country.

Explaining the calculations used to arrive at the 10,000 figure, a senior ministry official said: "We had done some research and found that the top 1% students of all boards comes to about 30,000-40,000 students. We had hoped that at least a third of these young people would enter science education in streams. But the response has been so poor that we are flummoxed. Either the programme has not received adequate publicity or there is an acute dearth of good students taking up science in the country."

It is the second possibility that the ministry is increasingly veering around to believe in given the overwhelming tendency of good students to take up commerce or economics and simply enter the management stream that is very highly paying and in which there is more "instant gratification" than a career in science where a person may take years to achieve anything substantial.

… The ministry, however, is not ready to compromise on the cut-off marks which is in the 90-91% range for a CBSE student. The second route of entry is for a student who may not have done too well in the boards but secured a high rank in the competitive examinations like JEE and AIEEE yet chooses to take up basic sciences.

As we wrote before efforts need to be made to encourage students at the high school level or even earlier to attract them to science. We had proposed science magnet schools for that. There were reports that the planning commission approved establishment of a few science magnet schools, but we have not heard much about it after that. India needs to establish 100 such science magnet schools across the country at the earliest.

1 comment February 6th, 2011

IISERs give ok to the concept of science magnet schools

Following is from a report in Indian Express.

The proposal to set up new specialized Navodaya Vidyalayas to be termed as ‘Science Magnet’ schools, in collaboration with top R&D institutes, got the go-ahead from the Indian Institutes of Science Education & research (IISER) on Tuesday.

At a meeting with the Human Resource Development (HRD) minister Kapil Sibal, IISER directors said that such schools would allow an integrated approach to science education from school to university level. IISER Thiruvananthapuram director has also committed to helping to provide an enabling environment to students enrolled in these Science Magnet schools. The Planning Commission is also learnt to have accorded, in principal, approval for the proposal.

These specialized Navodaya schools will only cater to students from classes IX to XII and will be set up over the next three years. The idea came up in light of the huge shortage of science graduates and post-graduates in the country and the diminishing interest in core science subjects.

Institutes like IISERs, Indian Institute of Science, National Physical Laboratory, Bhaba Atomic Research Centre, Council for Science & Industrial Research (CSIR) will be approached to help these schools which will be located in close proximity to these R&D institutes.

Initially I misread and thought that the IISERs agreed to have science magnet schools in their campus. The above report just says that they agree to the concept. Related reports say that they agree to accept students with IB (International Baccalaureate) degrees. That is important because the science magnet schools may need to get away from CBSE/ICSE/state-board and have IB so as to have a flexible curriculum that allows more courses in science and mathematics. The standard CBSE/ICSE/state-board does not have that flexibility.

I guess the reason an ok from the IISERs is important is because these schools are targeted to be feeder schools to IISERs.

4 comments September 8th, 2010

Planning Commission approves Science Magnet Schools; to be implemented soon and then followed by Arts and Culture Magnet Schools

Update: Apparently the MHRD people driving this project have told the HRD minister regarding the origin of the idea behind this proposal and Odisha is in their initial list of locations for one of the 10 schools.

See and for details. Following are excerpts from the Indian Express article.

… a new set of Navodayas will come up as ‘Science Magnet’ schools in collaboration with top-notch R&D institutes like the Indian Institute of Science, Bhaba Atomic Research Centre, National Physical Laboratory, Council for Science & Industrial Research, Indian Space Research Organisation and the IITs among others, highly placed sources told The Indian Express. Following them will be special schools focused on culture, music, sports and vocational education.

These specialised schools will, however, only cater to students from classes IX to XII. All other Navodaya schools admit students from Class VI onwards.

Starting this year, the schools will be set up over the next three years and add to the chain of over 560 Navodayas spread across the country. Cleared last week by the Navodaya Vidyalaya Samiti’s Executive Committee headed by HRD Minister Kapil Sibal, the proposal is set to go to the Union Cabinet and will take off with 10 Science Magnet Navodayas to start with.

“The whole concept has been developed in view of the huge shortage of Science graduates and post-graduates worldwide. No one wants to do core Science any longer. So planned as a Phase II of the Navodaya expansion, 10 Science Magnet Navodaya schools will be set up at a cost of some Rs 15-20 crore each,” a senior official in the HRD Ministry said. “These will be located in the vicinity of institutes like NPL, BARC, ISRO, IISc etc with whom we will be collaborating. We have already written to these institutes.”

“These institutes will basically do the handholding for the specialised schools, conduct special sessions, help set up state-of-the-art labs, assist in making Science teaching easy, evolve new pedagogical methods and also help to project the basic sciences as attractive options,” added the official. “It is hoped that students will ultimately also plug the vacuum in the scientific community and join their league at these institutes.”

While the course will be based on CBSE curriculum, the admission to these schools will take into account aptitude in Sciences, participation in events like Science Olympiads among other criteria. Admissions to the Navodayas are on the basis of a national-level examination.

We had written about this in and had contacted the SAC-PM, DST, IISER/NISER directors, and MHRD officers about it. We are happy that it is now going to be implemented. Hopefully, one of the 10 schools will be in Odisha.

March 30th, 2010

Science magnet school as part of IMA? Not yet, but a precursor.

Following is from Samaja.

April 21st, 2008

Letter to SAC-PM on science magnet schools

Update: IMSA website is a bit hard to navigate; following are some important links.


Dear esteemed SACPM:

Thank you for your role in the creation of the 6 IISc type institutes that the PM mentioned today in his address at Mumbai. I assume he meant the 5 IISERs and the NISER in Bhubaneswar.

I have been interacting with the NISER Bhubaneswar and getting some feedback on the IISERs. Its a bit worrisome that many students are going to IISERs because they could not get into IITs. I am told some IISER students gave the IIT JEE again and then moved. That is partly because the current 10+2 schools do not encourage students towards a career in science. The best science minded students get influenced by the big hype about IITs and engineering, and unless appropriate strategies are made they may not opt for science at IISERs.

I have read regrading plans for big scholarships for students pursuing 5 yr integrated M.Sc. That is a good step.

Regardless, I propose that the government of India establish at least one science magnet high school, perhaps boarding schools, in each state during the 11th plan. These schools could partly feed the IISERs. Its role would be similar to the role of Sainik Schools vis-a-vis NDA and the Indian military academy. The science magnet schools could be from class 8 or 9 to 12 with the goal of exposing the wonders of science and arousing the scientific creativity among the most talented youngsters of the country. It will also indirectly shield them from the hype of the IITs. (I am an IIT graduate so I can say that without being accused of being jealous of IITs.)

I currently live in the USA and there are many science magnet high schools in the USA. I do not know of any in India. (IIT Coaching high schools in Kota or other places don’t count. I am told at best certain schools have special science groupings and there are those junior science colleges at +2 level.) To understand what I mean by a science magnet school I would request you to explore the web page of the Illinois Math and Science Academy ( 40% of IMSA faculty have Ph.Ds and it has a Nobel laureate as a residential scholar.
There are many other such science magnet schools in the USA such as (School of Science and Engineering in Dallas), (The Louisiana School of Math, Science and Arts), (The Indiana Academy for Science Mathematics and Humanities, associated with a university), (Bronx high school of science ), (North Carolina School of Science and Mathematics), and (Texas Academy of Maths and Sciences, associated with a university). There is a list of such schools world wide at but none are in India.

If this interests you I would be happy to provide more pointers and may be able to put in touch with Indian origin students studying at IMSA, Illinois and/or their parents.

Thanks again for the revolutionary steps that you all have taken for India and I believe the proposed magnet schools will complement that. If you like the idea, please please consider having one of the initial/pilot schools in Orissa, my home state. We have already done some groundwork on that. Actually, the initial set of schools could be located near the IISER, NISER and IIsc campus. In this regard, please note that some of the science magnet schools in US are associated with universities. (IMSA is not.)

best regards
ps — Perhaps you have already thought about this.

2 comments June 24th, 2007


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