“It is my pleasure to be here with all of you on the momentous occasion of the inauguration of Centenary Celebrations of National College, Tiruchirappalli.
The nationalist philosophy of three committed teachers from this town, G. SeshaIyengar, P.G. SundaresaSastrigal and B.S. VenkataramanaSarma, led to the setting up of a School in June 1886.
By June 1919, this humble undertaking had grown in leaps and bounds to become a full-fledged College, thanks to the efforts of Justice T.V. SeshagiriIyer, Sri. T. Desikachariar, N.D. SubbaramaIyer and Shri. Sivarama Krishna Iyer.
I feel blessed to visit the College where the luminaries like the father of our nation Mahatma Gandhi and the first Prime Minister of India Pandit Jawaharlal Nehru have addressed the gathering on various occasions.
I can very well imagine the ups and downs and the challenges that an institution, that stood firm for 100 years, must have endured and overcome. I congratulate the management for enabling the sustained growth of this institution.
I am happy to learn that the College has been catering to the educational needs of downtrodden communities from villages of Tamil Nadu.
When the national average of Gross Enrolment Ratio (GER) in higher education stood at 26.3 percent in 2018-19, Tamil Nadu topped in the nation with 46.9 percent gross enrollment ratio. I believe that this feat has been achieved because of the dedicated efforts of institutions such as the National College that cater to rural areas.
My dear sisters and brothers,
With its large network of educational institutions, India holds an important place in the global education industry.
India has the world’s largest population in the age bracket of 5-24 years, of about 500 million, and this presents a great opportunity for our education sector to grow.
The last few decades saw the expansion of the education sector to cater to the explosion in demand. I believe that the coming decade must be a time for consolidation, a time to evaluate the gains made so far, a time to introspect and identify gaps and a time to chart a new path to move forward.
Literacy in India has been one of the key deterrents to the socio-economic progress of the country. Although our Literacy rate has risen significantly, from 17% at the end of 1950 to 76% currently, India still has the largest illiterate population in the world, with its literacy rate remaining below the world average of 86%.
Literacy is the first step to empowerment. We must hence step-up the pace of our literacy campaigns, especially those that have an impact on adult literacy.
Though India is home to premier institutions like IISc., IIT, IIM, only 56 institutions were featured in the 500 universities that made it to the ‘Times Higher Education World University Rankings 2020’. However, not a single Indian university features in the top 300 list.
In ancient times, India was the education capital of the world. With legendary universities like Nalanda, Takshashila and Vikramshila, India was the seat of wisdom, the cradle of civilization, the ‘Viswaguru’ or the teacher to the world.
Education in ancient India was free, egalitarian and accessible to both men and women. The curriculum was comprehensive and placed equal emphasis on the intellectual, emotional, psychological and physical development of the students.
If we are to restore this ancient glory, we must endeavor to fortify our modern education system with the wisdom gleaned from our ancient texts and practices, distilled in a relatable, rational and lucid manner, keeping in view the application of this wisdom to today’s real-world challenges.
This ancient wisdom is India’s uniqueness and its greatest strength. We will be doing a grave injustice to posterity if we do not preserve, protect and promote this treasure trove of wisdom, handed down to us by generations of wise men and women.
My dear sisters and brothers,
Today,we dream of being a 5 trillion dollar economy by 2022, borne by stable fundamentals, enabling policies, cutting-edge science and technology and ingenious innovations. But there are also pockets in the nation where poverty, illiteracy and social evils persist.
The key to fast-tracking development while ensuring social justice and equal opportunities to all, is a good education.
Investing in education is investing in a bright future for the country.
We must, therefore, step up our investment in education from the current 4.6 percent of GDP to 6 percent of GDP, as mandated by the NITI Aayog.
The private sector must also take an active interest in investing in education. The future of India’s education lies in effective and efficient models of Public-Private partnerships.
We need to also create a pool of teachers who are well versed in their subjects and are excellent communicators. We must train our teachers to recognize and understand the unique talents of each child and render an educational experience that brings out the best in the student.
Dr. APJ Abdul Kalam once said that “Educationists should build the capacities of the spirit of inquiry, creativity, entrepreneurial and moral leadership among students and become their role model.”
We must also bring about an immediate shift from rote-learning to conceptual and application-oriented learning.
India has done very well in certain areas of Science and Technology, especially in Space Technology and Information and Communication Technology. In fact Indian Computer Science experts work in the key positions of leadership in several IT global majors.
India has the potential to be the manufacturing hub and the human resources capital of the world.
But to achieve this goal, we must ensure that we have a vast pool of skilled manpower. Our Universities must become centers of excellence in skill training.
The kind of development that we aspire for and the time-frame that we have set for ourselves requires huge investment in Research and Development and a constant commitment towards innovation. Every university must have a research wing.
Research must not be limited to those pursuing a doctoral degree. Undergraduate students in universities must also be encouraged to undertake research activities. Innovation must become the culture of our universities.
It is time for our educational institutions to break the molds of conventional study disciplines. Some of the most exciting possibilities lie in the intersection of disciplines. We must encourage our Science students to pursue Social Sciences and we must promote understanding of scientific breakthroughs in our social studies majors.
Only then will we be able to envision pragmatic and effeftive solutions to the daunting challengs of our time.
Regardless of what stream of education they are pursuing, we must endevour to teach all our students the rich history of our country and the life stories of the great men and women who gave shape and form to this great nation.
Our students must draw inspiration from our glorious history to create a magnificent future.
Another important message that I would like to communicate to the youngsters is that of environmental protection. For some time now, the world has been experiencing the deleterious effects of climate change. If we do not take remedial measures now, these damages will become irreversible.
We are, but mere trustees of this planet.
It is our sacred duty to pass its bounties on to the future generation
Last but not the least, let me stress that educational institutions form the central pillar of every civil society.
It is their duty to raise intelligent, honest, socially conscious, ethical and compassionate citizens who will safeguard the democratic ethos of this diverse and vibrant nation.
We must inculcate cultural, social and moral values in our students.
For this to happen, the education we provide must compulsarily be value based and holistic.
I once again congratulate the National College on achieving this crucial milestone. I hope that this institution will grow from strength to strength in the time to come.