President Ram Nath Kovind on Tuesday said that higher education institutions have a major responsibility of transforming the impressionable youth. “For this, we need to address their aspirations, as they are future leaders in various spheres of life,” he said, inaugurating the two-day conference of vice-chancellors of central universities and directors of institutions of national importance at Rashtrapati Bhavan here.
Kovind said digital technologies are expanding the boundaries of education and the key to achieving excellence is to harness the transformational benefits of digital technologies for enriching the teaching and learning experience. When the pandemic threatened to derail teaching and learning, technology ensured continuity. There were difficulties, no doubt, but it is good to see that all of you imparted teaching and conducted assessments, evaluations and research uninterrupted. We can build on that experience now, and make classroom sessions more interactive, giving students a thorough understanding of the subject, he said. Kovind said, to improve the quality of education, we should also consider sophisticated and innovative learning approaches.
The President said he was happy to see that Azadi ka Amrit Mahotsav’ commemorating the glorious history of India’s freedom movement finds a place in the opening session. He said the country’s institutions of higher learning are central to this, as our young citizens are not only the inheritors of the past, but also the ones who will be leading India into its next golden age. Institutions of higher education have a major responsibility of transforming the impressionable youth. For this, we need to address their aspirations, as they are future leaders in various spheres of life. I can say with confidence that each one of you is going to help achieve this goal. The extraordinary growth of India in recent times would not have otherwise been possible. I am sure you will continue the good work, Kovind said.
The President is the Visitor of 161 central institutes of higher education. Out of 161 institutes, 53 are attending the conference physically while others are connected virtually, a statement issued by the Rashtrapati Bhavan said. Kovind said, in order to achieve our larger goals, improving the quality of institutions of higher learning is of vital importance. We should be setting benchmarks for the best in the world, he added. The President said that while one cannot deny the importance of pure sciences, for a country like India the importance of utilising research into socially and economically relevant outcomes cannot be ignored.
Therefore, the agenda item on collaboration between academia, industry and policy makers’ is highly relevant, he said. There are a number of such initiatives in India working both ways – taking the benefits of research to the market and also bringing the expertise of the market to academia, Kovind said. The President said that questioning accepted beliefs and flowing against the tide has often been the basis of human progress. However, in an era of unprecedented technological strides, it is not just individual brilliance but also the systems of support that facilitate such progress. It is a pooling of human intelligence that has led to this fluid environment, Kovind said. He said that discussions on the topic, Education and Research in Emerging and Disruptive Technologies’, would enhance our understanding of this very relevant aspect of higher education.
The President noted that in order to encourage an ecosystem of start-ups and innovation, nearly 2,775 institutional innovation councils have been set up in higher education institutions in 28 states and six UTs. He expressed confidence that this would go a long way in promoting the aims of a socially relevant partnership between the institutions of higher education and the industry. Kovind also noted that India’s ranking in Global Innovation Index has significantly improved from 76 in 2014 to 46 in 2021.
He said, however, in order to improve the culture of innovation and entrepreneurship in India, we need to encourage the filing for patents and streamline the process for it. Speaking about the agenda item integrating schooling and higher and vocational education’, the President said that the system should educate in a way that not only enhances knowledge, but also provides the skill to live a fulfilling and useful life. School lays the foundation, but this must lead a student to higher or vocational education meeting both aptitude and aspirations, he said.
During the inaugural session of the conference, the President also presented the Visitor’s Award 2020 for Research (Biological Sciences)’ to Prof Mohammad Zahid Ashraf, Department of Biotechnology, Jamia Millia Islamia, for his research on hypoxia-induced thrombosis; and Visitor’s Award 2020 for Technology Development’ to Prof Pritam Deb, Department of Physics, Tezpur University, for his work on development of biodegradable polymer film reinforced with two-dimensional hetero-structure for food packaging. The third Visitor’s Award 2020 for Research (Physical Sciences)’ will be conferred on Prof Anunay Samanta, School of Chemistry, University of Hyderabad later on for his contribution to the spectroscopy and dynamics of short-lived chemical species formed on photo-excitation of molecular systems and materials.