Mukherjee calls for higher education standards

Educational institutions in India should lift their game and rise up to international standards, Indian President Pranab Mukherjee said.

“India needs world class universities. We have not produced a single Nobel Prize winner since Sir C V Raman,” he said, delivering the valedictory address of the 12th Annual Pravasi Bharatiya Divas in Delhi on January 9.

Sir Chandrasekhara Venkata Raman received the Nobel Prize for his ground-breaking work in the field of light scattering, known as the ‘Raman Effect.’ The Raman Research Institute which he established in Bangalore is involved in several areas of Astronomy and Astrophysics.

Increased investment

Mr Mukherjee urged educational institutions to invest more in research and development.

“They should pursue greater international linkages by establishing collaborations with foreign Universities and inviting the best of faculty from across the world to come and teach in our institutions.

“Over the last nine years, the Government has prioritised higher education and supported it with increased resources. Enrolment to higher education institutions in the country increased from 13.9 million in 2006-2007 to 21.8 million in 2011-2012 and today we have 659 degree-awarding institutions and 33,023 colleges,” he said.

Reclaiming glory

Mr Mukherjee said that despite significant growth in the number of higher education institutions, India has few institutions of global standards.

“In the past, India’s ancient university system dominated the world for nearly 1800 years beginning from the sixth century BC to 11th Century AD, when the collapse of Nalanda occurred. Famed seats of higher learning like Takshashila, Nalanda, Vikramashila, Valabhi, Somapura and Odantapuri were a magnet for scholars across the world,” he said.

Mr Mukherjee said that it was time for India to reclaim the position of leadership in the world in higher education.

The country’s effort to increase ‘quantity’ must be matched with efforts to improve ‘quality’ and lead institutions into the ranks of the best in the world, he said.

“In a world marked by increasing constraints on natural resources, innovation will be the key to future growth. China and US are amongst the countries at the forefront of innovation with over 500,000 patent applications filed by each country in 2011. In contrast to this, India filed only 42,000 patent applications, which is far behind these countries. As per an international survey, only three Indian companies are amongst the world’s 100 most innovative companies,” Mr Mukherjee said.

Innovation & Research

According to him, Indian industries and higher educational institutions should promote innovation through emphasis on research.

India ranks 12th among the top 20 countries in terms of publications on science and technology, he said.

“We have only 119 researchers in R & D per million people, as compared to 715 in China and 468 in US. Out of the total student strength of 71,000 in National Institutes of Technology (NITs), there are only 4000 PhD students. In Indian Institutes of Technology (IITs), there are only about 3000 PhD students in the total student strength of 60,000.

Diaspora help

Mr Mukherjee said that the Indian Diaspora, accounting for about 25 million people of Indian origin, can play an important role in the growth and development of India.

“Whether you are scholars, scientists, professionals, businessmen or even workers, you have within you the experience, expertise and knowledge gained as a result of your life abroad, which can be of immense benefit to India. Many of you can play a role guiding to India greater foreign direct investment and in educating your colleagues and friends abroad of the business opportunities that exist in India,” he said.

Mr Mukherjee later presented the Pravasi Bharatiya Samman Awards to 12 distinguished persons and to the Ramakrishna Mission Fiji, a separate report on which appears in this Section.

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