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Need to re-imagine and reconstruct the higher education system: Vice President

Government should play the role of a strong facilitator for education;

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Private sector should come forward in the field of education;

Universities should become hubs for innovation;

Launches Krea University

The Vice President of India, Shri M. Venkaiah Naidu stressed on the need to re-imagine and reconstruct the higher education system in tune with the requirements 21st century. While launching Krea University, here today, he underscored those institutes of eminence must aim to ensure all round development of an individual apart from imparting quality education.

The Vice President said that institutions like the Krea University with sights set firmly on the achievement of brilliance and distinction at the global platform must serve us in good stead in our quest for fast track progress and all round development. He called for an impactful coordination of Public-Private Sector in providing such education system. Government should play the role of a strong facilitator and others supplement government’s efforts, he added.

Shri Naidu said that not having enough high quality researchers, and the declining number of students doing PhDs and entering research posts was a concern. A country as populous as India and facing innumerable challenges from poverty to environmental degradation simply cannot do without innovation, he said. Saying that universities should become hubs for innovation, the Vice President said that they must not become breeding grounds for resentment, frustration or discrimination. A university should be a place of enlightenment, a sanctuary of positive thoughts and safe haven of wisdom and knowledge, he added.

Expressing concern that the higher education system in India still lags behind the standards of the world’s best universities, Shri Naidu said that in 2018 too, no Indian university was able to secure a place in the top 100 best universities in the QS World University Ranking. American and European universities still rule the list, he said.

The Vice President said that Indian Universities face a number of problems starting from shortage of funds to inadequate number of teachers to falling enrollment numbers. The profusion more rewarding career choices, lack of adequate facilities for post graduate education and the retirement of the current generation of professors and teachers has created a staff crunch in our centers of higher education, he added.

Shri Naidu said that the demand for skilled manpower in India predicted to be 700 million by 2022 and India must equip the young and students with employable skills. Such steps would not only allow us to realize the demographic dividend but also help India become the ‘skill capital’ of the world, he added.

Following is the text of Vice President’s address:

“I am extremely happy to be here today with all of you at the Krea University launch ceremony. It is heartening to know that at the core of this university’s philosophy lies a pioneering paradigm of Interwoven Learning, weaving together thought with action, technology with humanities, arts with sciences, and ultimately, learnings of the past with preparedness for the future.

As I have said on numerous occasions before, India is at a juncture in its history when it simply cannot afford to be mediocre. Excellence should be our goal, our Mantra. We owe it to the billion dreams that propel our country forward to strive and reach the zenith of human potential.

Institutions like the Krea University with sights set firmly on the achievement of brilliance and distinction at the global platform will doubtlessly serve us in good stead in our quest for fast track progress and all round development.

We stand at an inflexion point in human history. We are witnessing technological advancements unfold at a breakneck pace. Machine intelligence is getting better by the day. Genetic engineering now allows us to experiment with the basic building blocks of our biology. At the same time, rapid economic development has taken a toll on our environment. Our cities struggle to provide basic amenities such as clean air and potable water to residents.

Amidst such flux, institutions like Krea University must emerge as fountainheads of innovation, laying the pathway to a secure and prosperous future for humanity.

India is uniquely poised to be at the epicenter of these developments. We are endowed with a demographic dividend unmatched by any other country in the world today, 65% of our population is below 35 years of age. If we are to tap the full potential of our young and continually expanding labor force, we must fundamentally re-imagine our approach to higher education.

The regulatory environment in India today is conducive to the establishment of great universities. Universities enjoy greater autonomy based on their accreditation score or performance in international rankings. These universities are given the freedom to start new academic programmes, courses, off-campus centers and research parks. The universities may hire the best faculty and admit students from anywhere in the world, and enter into international agreements and partnerships.

In such an environment, new institutions of excellence such as Krea University may be established and encouraged to set global benchmarks of excellence and innovation.

Krea University is one such groundbreaking initiative, which is the the brainchild of some of the finest academic and industrial minds in our country today. I am pleased to learn that at Krea, all students would undergo an inter-disciplinary core curriculum in the first year so that the students of Science would learn some literature, and those of arts would develop comfort with data and the scientific method.

I was told that Krea places special focus on inclusivity by providing scholarships to meritorious students who do not have the means to pay fees. I congratulate Krea for its commitment to promoting equity in education. Excellent infrastructure, a sprawling campus, faculty members who have been trained at some of the best universities of the world and a professional governing body composed of prominent leaders of the corporate world make Krea the University of the future.

It is truly noteworthy that Krea University, in partnership with the Dalai Lama Center for Ethics, aims to instill in its graduates a sense of purpose and a moral compass that keeps them steadfast as they navigate the complexities of the 21st century.

The education system in India has been facing a number of challenges for a long time now. India is set to become one of the youngest nations in the world by 2030 with close to a 140 million people set to enter the college-age group. Under such circumstances, India has to empower its institutions of higher education to live up to its aims of delivering world-class scholarship and education.

Strong ambitions notwithstanding, the higher education system in India still lags behind the standards of the world’s best universities. In 2018 too, no Indian university was able to secure a place in the top 100 best universities in the QS World University Ranking. American and European universities still rule the list.

Indian Universities face a number of problems starting from shortage funds to inadequate number of teachers to falling enrollment numbers.

The profusion more rewarding career choices, lack of adequate facilities for post graduate education and the retirement of the current generation of professors and teachers has created a staff crunch in our centers of higher education.

India has always been a nation of great teachers. The best of our practitioners, the most intelligent of our scientists and the most versatile of our philosophers and thinkers often turned to teaching. Institutions like Krea University serve to make the profession of teaching a rewarding one, so that the best of our minds are engaged in the critical task of molding our youth and casting our lustrous future.

The gross enrolment rate of college-aged people in tertiary education is also a cause for grave concern. The country’s Gross Enrolment Ratio or GER in higher education was 25.2% in 2016-17 while China stands at 43.39% and USA’s at 85.8%.

The indulgent system which regulates higher educational institutions in India has also lead to the mushrooming of hundreds of privately set-up colleges offering a poor quality education in India in order to turn a profit.

It has been noticed that students graduating from a number of universities and colleges are struggling to find work since they are not employable. But one can take heart from the fact that employability is rising, albeit slowly. Universities should try to create associations with industries and companies, understand the need of the industries and update curriculum accordingly to boost employability.

The demand for skilled manpower in India predicted to be 700 million by 2022. Disruptive new technologies, like artificial intelligence, robotics and machine learning will certainly alter business prototypes. Firms will have two choices, either to develop an astute technology orientation or perish.

Accordingly, our skilling ecosystem should also undergo a pattern shift to cater to the ‘skills of future’ as well as to ensure that enough jobs are created. India has every opportunity to be the future ‘skill capital’ of the world.  Krea University’s curriculum is designed in conjunction with industry, specifically to prepare students for the jobs and lives of the future.

It is also important that we promote student exchanges and host international students from around the world. The revenue this brings is only of secondary importance to us. What is primary is that international students help in creating a much more robust and comprehensive learning environment. They bring in diverse views and experiences and encourage their counterparts to nurture perspectives which are diametrically opposite to the ones that they are familiar with.

The collaborative learning environment created under such circumstances help in making our students much more adaptable and cosmopolitan. It will also be a great boost to India’s soft power in the world.

Hopefully with schemes such as ‘Study in India’ we will soon attract many more foreign students to India’s universities.

Future relationships and strong friendships between nations would be created and cemented and world peace and brotherhood would be forged right here in our universities.

It is crucial that we re-imagine and reconstruct our higher education system. The autonomy of universities cannot be compromised under any circumstance. The government should play the role of a strong facilitator when it comes to universities. They should be allowed to develop their own curricula and their won system of examinations. A strong, accomplished and professional management body for universities coupled with adequate funding is the need of the hour.

It is also a cause for concern that India does not have enough high quality researchers, and that the number of students doing PhDs and entering research posts is on the decline. A country as populous as India and facing innumerable challenges from poverty to environmental degradation simply cannot do without innovation.

The objective of a university should not just be restricted to imparting quality education, but to ensure all round development of an individual.

Universities should be hubs for innovation, a safe space for future visionaries and entrepreneurs to sharpen their skills. They should not be breeding grounds for resentment, frustration or discrimination.

A university should be a place of enlightenment, a sanctuary of positive thoughts and safe haven of wisdom and knowledge.

It should be a melting pot of cultures and traditions, an oasis of youthful energy and vitality and an asylum for vibrant dreams.

Krea University promises to be all this and more.  I wish Krea University all success, and hope that it will inspire many such universities to invigorate our thinking and lay the building blocks of a new paradigm that sets us on the path to becoming a world leader in higher learning, the celebrated ‘Vishwaguru’ yet again.

 

Thank you, Jaihind!”

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