Sonipat (Haryana), March 21, 2013: President of India, Pranab Mukherjee has called upon the urgent need to raise the quality of teaching, faculty and research in the universities of the country.
Mukherjee was here to inaugurate International conference on “The Future of Indian Universities: Comparative Perspectives on Higher Education Reforms for a knowledge Society’ at O.P. Jindal Global University, Sonipat.
A number of national and international experts and participants are participating in the three-day conference.
Taking serious note of none of Indian Universities being among the top 200 Universities in the World, the President called for serious introspection and added that it is not at all acceptable. He asked the Ministry of Human Resource Development, University Grants Commission and the Universities to work together in achieving qualitative improvement in our educational system so as to make it as good as the best in the world. Common approach should be adopted with focus on quality, affordability and accessibility. He also called upon the private sector to play larger role in education system and replicate its success in several key sectors like health, transport and financial services.
The President said that India has a young population and the demographic profile of the country could be a boon. It would be a boon if we are able to harness their potential and if we failed to do so and channelise their productive energies, it may visit us with ‘terrible and negative consequences’. He said that India’s average age would be 29 years in year 2020, which would be much lower than 40 years in US, 46 years in Japan and 47 years of Europe. He cautioned that we must recognise that the demographic dividends could only be reaped if the young population is provided higher education and vocational training.
Mukherjee also made a fervent appeal for innovation, and added that the progress of nations is determined in large measure by their capacity to innovate. He said that Universities and Research centres should become fertile grounds for innovation. He suggested for setting up industry incubation parks, enhancing the coverage of research students by fellowships, promoting inter-disciplinary research through inter-university and intra-university collaboration and empowering our centres of excellence as important steps in that direction. So far, India’s performance indicators in the capacity to innovate are discouraging in comparison to India’s major competitors, he added.
Mukherjee also stressed the need for involving Indian scholars working overseas for important research and teaching positions as short-term assignments in Indian Universities. This would facilitate dissemination of knowledge and cross fertilization of ideas. He also stressed the need for equipping the universities to encourage grass root innovators and ask them to play the role of mentor.
The President also stressed the need for making education affordable to the marginalized sections of the society. Student aid programmes like scholarships, education loans and self-help schemes should be liberalised for deserving students, he added.
Mukherjee said that the power of technology should be harnessed to promote education. Lecturers of eminent professors could be transmitted to educational institutions situated away from the main towns and cities using the facilities offered by the National Mission on Education through Information and Communication Technology, he added.
Speaking on this occasion, Haryana Chief Minister, Bhupinder Singh Hooda stressed the need for drawing the best of brains to education and teaching, making students opt for the science and maths streams, and investing in and improving the standards of education in the country to stop the endemic brain drain.
Hooda said that West continued to dominate the league tables for top universities, attracting some of the finest academicians and scholars from around the world. “It is primarily for this reason that our budding talent prefers to go abroad for higher studies. This is a daunting challenge before all of us. We need to invest in our universities in a big way so that some of them may match up to the best in the world”, the Chief Minister said.
The Chief Minister said that a beginning must be made at the school education level. The youth must be encouraged to take to sciences, mathematics and English language. “Apart from learning physical sciences, we need to inculcate scientific temper in our younger generation. While we transform our school education, we invest in improving college and university education so that the transition from quality school education to higher levels is along the expected lines”, he added.
But this is easier said than done. It needs huge investments in public sector institutions. Hooda called upon the private sector to participate in a big way in supplementing the efforts of the government to improve the standards of education. “O. P. Jindal Global University offers a shining example of such an initiative. Other corporate houses can follow suit”, he said lauding the initiative taken by the university to organise the conference.
Union Minister for Human Resource Development, M. M. Pallam Raju, Haryana Governor, Jagannath Pahadia, MP and Chancellor of O.P.Jindal Global University, Naveen Jindal, Provost Indiana University, USA, Prof Lauren Robel, JGU Vice-Chancellor Professor C. Raj Kumar, and Registrar JGU Professor Y.S.R.Murthy also spoke on the occasion. Haryana Vidhan Sabha Speaker Kuldeep Sharma, MP Jitender Malik, Chief Parliamentary Secretary Jaiveer Singh, former Minister Savitri Jindal and a number of distinguished personalities were also present on the occasion.