TEZPUR, Nov 20 � President Pranab Mukherjee today said that education has shaped the destiny of nations in no small measure, as nations consigned to poverty, social disorder and economic malaise have advanced through superior knowledge built by a strong education system.
Addressing the 12th Convocation of the Tezpur Central University, he said that in ancient India, there were globally-famed seats of learning like Nalanda, Taxila and others. The scenario today is starkly different. Our institutions lag in international rankings brought out by reputed agencies. A few of our leading institutions deserve a better position though. They need to adopt an effective strategy to project their achievements.�
The President stated that he was happy to be at the Convocation of the Tezpur University, which is considered as one of the important centres of higher education in the north-eastern part of the country. He said that whenever somebody visits Tezpur, the visit reminds him of its magnificent cultural heritage and the rich and diverse tapestry of its history. It is believed that Lord Krishna fought Banasura�s army here to rescue his grandson, Aniruddha. The archaeological site, Da Parbatiya, manifests architecture of the sixth century AD. Tezpur is a leading cultural centre of Assam. It is associated with Dr Bhupen Hazarika, who spent a part of his early life here; Jyotiprasad Agarwala, the first Assamese filmmaker; and Kalaguru Bishnu Prasad Rabha, a doyen of the arts and others.�
Mukherjee said that the Tezpur University, which was started in 1994, made a modest beginning with 57 students in three departments. It has now come a long way. This centre of higher learning today offers 63 academic programmes through 19 departments to over three thousand students with a faculty strength of 250. It conducts research in frontier areas of knowledge. He said that he was happy to learn that it has established a facility to house sophisticated analytical instruments. Several departments of this university, like computer science, chemical sciences and engineering, energy and languages, have entered into collaborations with renowned European institutions. He said that he had been informed that today, about 1,500 students belonging to sciences, humanities, engineering and management disciplines have been awarded degrees and diplomas.
The President said that as the graduating students bid adieu to their alma mater, they should be confident that their education here has provided them the implements to shine wherever they go and flourish in whatever they do. Quoting Dr S Radhakrishnan, the President said that �All education is, on one side, a search for truth; and on the other, it is a pursuit of social betterment. You may discover truth, but you should apply it to improve the status of society�.
The President said that while the students should try and fulfil their own dreams, they should also try to fulfil the expectations of society and the country which is theirs and which has nurtured them.�
Mukherjee stated that only change can lead to progress. It is truer for our academic system where multiple interventions are now necessary. Faculty shortage has to be mitigated through expeditious recruitment of talented scholars; faculty development promoted through regular conduct of faculty recharge programmes; teaching as a career made appealing; ICT networks used extensively for collaboration of ideas, thoughts and knowledge; expertise and experience of alumni utilized in curriculum development and mentoring of students; and the industry engaged through institutional mechanisms. The President said that it was decided in the Conference of Vice Chancellors of Central Universities held in Rashtrapati Bhavan this year that each Central university ought to set up an Industry Interface Cell, comprising representatives of the local industry, industry associations, alumni and faculty. The cell would draw up a calendar towards various collaborative activities like joint research, faculty exchange and sponsoring of chairs and endowments. Success of initiatives like �Make in India� hinges on manufacturing quality industrial products where academia-industry interface would play a very crucial role, he said.�
The President stated that we, as a developing nation, have to search for solutions to issues like renewable energy, climate changes, drinking water, sanitation and urbanization. It is incumbent on our universities to align their research priorities with these challenges. Our universities have to be the breeding ground for creative quests and cutting-edge technological developments. They have to encourage their students to satiate their curiosity and unleash their creativity. They have to imbibe in these young minds a scientific temperament and a spirit of inquiry. Our universities have to support an ecosystem where innovative ideas born out of novelty of the common man are mentored. To spur an innovation culture and translate the slogan of �inclusion in innovation� into a workable framework, the President said that he had earlier called upon the central institutions to open innovation clubs. He was happy that such a platform has been created in several institutions. Our universities have to now make an effort to link these clubs to innovation incubators in technical and research institutions to transform ideas into useful marketable products.�
He stated that central universities have a pioneering role to play in setting standards for higher education across the country. They have to be a catalyst for rejuvenating other institutions of higher learning in their region, thereby reducing regional academic imbalance. More importantly, central universities have to become a vehicle of social rejuvenation by extending the reach of education through extension work in adjoining areas. They have to reach out to people in their region by disseminating knowledge, encouraging innovation, promoting environmental conservation and developing skills. They have to elicit participation of talented local youth, increase their employability and usher in upward mobility of the deprived sections of society. Their work must resonate the needs and aspirations of the people.�
He said that in the Conference of Directors of NITs held in the Rashtrapati Bhavan last month, he had given a call to the NITs to start working with at least five villages each to transform them into model villages. He said that he expected the central universities, too, including the Tezpur University, to follow suit. The university must organize resource persons and experts, if so required, from other central institutions to provide solutions to the wide range of issues concerning the adopted villages. He said he was sure that higher educational institutions in general and central universities in particular will actively involve themselves to make an India which is progressive and equal.