In recent years, post graduate M.Sc Programs have been created at different campuses in Nepal. The number of physics graduates at B.Sc Level is on gradual rise. This trend is relatively higher than those in other science subject areas. Tribhuvan University (TU) is the only University in the country where B.Sc Prgram with major in Physics exists at B.Sc level. In the last academic session of 2008 AD, some 750 B.Sc. graduates appeared at the entrance tests. Out of those numbers 500 students were enrolled for M.Sc at different constituent and privately run campusese affiliated to TU.
M.Sc program in Physics exists at Central Department of Physics (CDP) , Kirtipur; Patan Multiple Campus , Lalitpur; GoldenGate International College and St. Xavier college in the capital city, Kathmandu. Birendra Multiple Campus , Bharatpur; Prithvi Narayan Campus , Pokhara and Mahendra Morang Campus , Biratnagar are other constituent campuses outside the capital where PG program in Physics has begun. The CDP has a history of four and half decades whereas the programs at other campuses are recent ones.
Normally and properly run academic activities are generally affected these days in Nepal because of several reasons. It is not only true for Physics but also for other subject-wise academic courses. CDP began M.Sc teaching for 13 students. Gradually the number rose to 20 to 30 and to 60 with its history of establishment. Presently 120 students in two groups of 60 each are enrolled every academic year. But the physical facilities with respect to laboratory equipments have negligibly added because of financial constraints. Such support from the university has declined enormously during last several years.
CDP has also been facing challenge to keep physics academics up-to-the level. Teaching and research are interrelated and must go side by side. Only four Ph.D.’s have so far been produced from this department. A few number of Ph.D. fellows are working at CDP for the degree within and in collaborations with other universities or institutions. Process of retirement of senior professors, decline of physical but essential facilities such as water and power supplies, faculties’ getting attracted towoareds part-time teaching outside CDP so that their priorities look like shifting, proportionately large number of enrollment of students and increasing financial requirements for regular and research activities may be some of the serious challenges. Other campuses similarly face the problem of scarcity of experienced full-time working faculties with Ph.D. degree, and the establishment of laboratories. Lack of sincere commitments from every concerned section has resulted into a deteriorating situation.
Curricula are generally designed to prepare the graduates to meet the requirements at the national level, to go for higher studies and research and be able to begin their own professional research and subject related jobs. CDP has, thus, high responsibilities to discharge its job, thereby retaining its recognition. Quality at CDP determines the state of education in physics at all levels and campuses. National planning, political attitude and students thirst towards quality learning also go on diminishing every day. Positive attitude of some of the good students also get minimized creating an unpleasant frustrations among potentially intelligent young future physicists of the nation. CDP remains worried about it but without a proper measure to remove such a bad feeling. An average student in quality has also expects very high scores in test. Faculties, Students, administrative and financial management, the Head, TU authorities, national politics and planners are all responsible to proportionate extent. Unless an effective measure is taken as mass participation and concern the situation may not improve, rather goes on deteriorating.
Complexities and implementation
There prevails at present a complex situation associated to PG physics program. In the absence of national plan and vision for higher education in general and in physics in particular, the direction to reach a destination is unclear. What, where and how many jobs will B.Sc or M.Sc graduates will get after their graduation? There is no answer to such questions from any quarter at the national level. University is facing the pressure from enrollment every year without knowing the defined goal. Students reach at PG level without a preplan. Such a situation must be addressed as early as possible. Otherwise, more PG departments will be created under pressure for which as substantial national investment will be required. If performance is aimed in darkness there is a fear of failure and wastage of national money.
Realities of CDP and M.Sc. Graduates
M.Sc.’s so produced have no job in the university campuses as there are very few vacancies. Most of M.Sc. graduates produced at CDP in Nepal joins X+2 institutions of Higher Secondary Education Board (HSEB). Quite a few such privately run institutions are created every year in the country and our graduates get job on temporary contract. Most of them, though engaged, don’t get job satisfaction even after several years of service to X+2 institutions. In this manner physics graduates get opportunity to work as compared to others but with frustrations.
Some two to three dozens of the potential PG M.Sc. graduates go every year for higher studies and research leading to Ph.D. More than 300 graduates are presently at doctoral and post doctoral research in the USA. They are working in different fields of applied physics on important recent trends and values. There are other places in the country where young physicists may find opportunity and contribute to the development of the country. Physics graduates are fortunate as compared to others as they at least earn their bread and butter through teaching in different parts of township and remote areas of the country. There are other non teaching organizations where physicists can play their role to development. Such institutions are the Bureau of Standards, Weights and Measures, electronic and other communication developments, hospitals, environmental, atmospheric and metrological, geological, agricultural organizations.
Curricula of Physics for M.Sc; like those at other universities, comprise of core and elective courses as per the global general trend. Contents and the texts are almost the same as those at other universities. Practical training of research methodology on any physics problem has been introduced in lieu of one of the elective papers. Twenty percent of the weight-age of syllabus goes with laboratory works. This part has been taken in an ordinary way. Every student, the faculty and management (i.e. whole department) together are responsible for such a scenario. There has been a serious demand of highest grade of marks for laboratory works without a proper performance. Sometimes teacher complain about a low percent attendance of students and at the same time students complain about the absence of teaches in the theory and laboratory classes.
Seriousness of Teaching-Learning problems
Quality of teaching and learning is generally related with the collection of good, potential and intelligent intake of students, seriousness and regularity among the performing faculties in the classes, proper management on the part of administration and a good evaluation process. Personal discipline and interest among the students and faculties are also important for overall good result of the program. Students must realize that a group of 60 is a large number of post graduate students in a class. They must be able to keep up the environment of learning and try to maximize the benefits from the delivering lecturers. Faculties in the same manner must realize that the group of 60 students is going to be their colleagues in a year or two and the students’ presence must not be ignored. Teachers are supposed to give everything (of course the knowledge!) they have because the students are their future strength. Students are also supposed to take what their teachers give. Intellectual learning arguments are allowed and they must respect the teacher’s view with honor. It is to be realized that the grading of students is also important affair. Value of grading is so important that a real excellent student gets frustrated momentarily if placed in an ordinary category. But an average student remains frustrated for whole of his life if graded inappropriately in an excellent category because of his incapability to achieve his high expectation in life due to such a mismatch. Society also expects high from him. He has to live in the situation of de-recognition in the community.
It has become difficult to point out the reason for unavailability of full academic session. Academic calendar has not been formed and the duration of session from fresh enrollment to final examination or evaluation does not function properly. Political strikes and interferences are the main causes for such a situation.
Students are generally used for agitation for nonacademic reasons and goals. Political groupism at all levels of students, teachers and supporting administrative staff affects very seriously in the affairs of teaching institutions and/ or universities. Plans and programs, rules and regulations are violated quite often.
Absence of well defined vision for higher education and job prospects in one hand and a seriously high constrain of financial support to promote academic affairs on the other creates complexity in general. Bad shape of regulatory system does not support in the design of useful program. Faculties do not find opportunities of career development and promotion on regular basis and remain worried about their future. Refresher programs for the teachers remain unattended. Senior professors are in the process of retirement. Recruitment of qualified teachers has not been taken care of a regular basis. No serious thinking is filling such a foreseen gap has been given, degree required to enforce the regulations to maximize the physical and human resources has also been in a deteriorating state.
Central Department of Physics (CDP) has very important role to play. The quality of physics teaching-learning throughout the country at all levels including the new PG programs depends upon the quality given to the students at CDP. Most of the faculties are qualified with Ph.D. degrees and experienced in their field of interest. It is the job to promote their field of interest among the students with commitment. There are more than half a dozen elective papers given as choice to the students at CDP, such as Solid State Physics, Plasma Physics, Bio-Medical Physics, Cosmology, Atmospheric Physics, Microelectronics and Optoelectronics; and Astronomy and Astrophysics (to be introduced in the current academic session). Students so produced in respective electives have been useful in different non-teaching organizations mentioned above. CDP also provides training of research methodology on problems of several areas of Physics. Some of works are published as well. CDP also organizes seminars, workshops and training to the students and teachers on different areas of curricula, evaluation methods and recent trends. In the past quite a few collaborative projects have been completed and new ones are in the process of introduction. Some of the research faculties are partially sponsored and others in Environment and Atmospheric Physics, Astronomy and Astrophysics, Cosmology, Computational Physics etc. are in the process.
In the background that several PG departments have been created in different parts of country, it is a proper time to develop CDP as a major center of excellence. An investment on faculties for regular laboratory works and research in priority areas must be done so that CDP stands as a research center that may attract our Nepalese scientists with Ph.D. degree working outside the country but willing to serve the country. Community of Physicists must frame a plan of action to request the government to create jobs so that qualified expert manpower are inclined to return from abroad to some extent.
In the mean time the recruitment of qualified manpower with Ph.D. degree must be done on regular basis at CDP to address the forthcoming gap due to the process of retirement of senior professors. Side by side, collaborative Ph.D. program as well as the creation of opportunities for career development and refresher trainings to the teachers must be enhanced.
An article by:
Prof. Dr. Lok Narayan Jha
Head, Central Department of Physics, Tribhuvan University