President Ram Nath Kovind: Gaps in quality education despite vast network of colleges
President Ram Nath Kovind Tuesday said India has a vast network of universities and colleges but gaps still exist in attaining world-class excellence in education. To achieve global standards, the government has taken a decision to promote 20 institutions of higher education as "institutes of eminence", Kovind said at the 15th convocation ceremony of the Symbiosis International University here.
The President noted that India has a massive network of 903 universities and 39,050 colleges. "But the fact is there are still gaps in quality and in attaining world-class excellence across the spectrum," he said.
"In this context, the government has taken a decision to promote and support 20 institutions of higher education as 'institutes of eminence', to grant them recruitment and curricula flexibility in order to reach best-in-class global standards," he added. After a competitive process, the first few of these institutes of eminence were announced recently. There will be future rounds as well, he said.
Underlining the performance of girls in higher education, he said as president, he made a conscious effort to visit universities and educational institutions across the country to meet and interact with students and future thought leaders of the country. "One of my findings has been that the academic performance of girl students tends to exceed that of boys. Today too, of the nine gold medals awarded at this convocation, six have gone to graduating girls. This is commendable and a happy sign for our society," he said.
He also asked students to use their education to help fellow citizens. "Your education gives you responsibility to help those less-privileged and less-fortunate. How you choose to do this is entirely up to you, but remember that your empathy for fellow citizens is as much a test of your scholarship as your mark-sheet or your degree," the president said.
He said knowledge has no gender or geographical boundaries and that India has been a centre of learning for centuries. From Taxila to Nalanda, the subcontinent's age-old universities attracted students from different parts of Asia and beyond, he noted. "In modern times as well, our campuses have been open to and welcoming talented young people from many countries, specially those in our neighbourhood and in Africa, a continent with which we have a special relationship, shaped in classrooms," Kovind said.
He said it was worth noting that 46,144 international students from 166 countries study in various colleges, universities and institutions of higher learning in India. "Of those who are graduating today, 329 students are from 33 countries other than India. This adds to the multicultural and cosmopolitan atmosphere of your (Symbiosis) campus, and promotes goodwill among nations," he said.
He congratulated the graduates hailing from other countries, specially one from Uganda who won the 'Outstanding Foreign Student' Award. "You arrived here as students. I am confident you are departing as lifelong friends and unofficial ambassadors of India," he said.
He said the story of modern India owes much to the progressive ideas that have flowed from Pune, and for which "our nation is truly appreciative". He hailed social reformers like Jyotiba Phule and Savitribai Phule, M G Ranade, Vasudev Balwant Phadke, Bal Gangadhar Tilak and Gopal Krishna Gokhale for taking the "lamp of learning" far and wide. For each of them, the "spread of education was non-negotiable", he said, adding that "breadth of Indian higher education is appreciable".