A new roadmap for higher education
Soon after the Republic Day celebrations in 1954, the then Indian
President Dr. Rajendra Prasad invited Sir C. V. Raman to be his personal
guest at Rashtrapati Bhavan, Delhi, to participate in the first batch of
Bharat Ratna awardees.
Indian External Affairs Minister Pranab Mukherjee addressing the
inauguration of the SAARC university project
However, although the invitation personally came and originated from
the President of India, Sir C.V. Raman was reluctant to participate in
the glittering ceremony, associated with the highest honour and wrote a
convincing and a very polite letter to the President regretting his
inability to come to Delhi and attend the grand ceremony.
He gave a very unique reason for not attending this ceremony and
explained to the President that he was actively involved in guiding a
Ph.D student for his thesis and is in the stage of giving final touches
to the script. Sir Raman felt that at this critical moment, he had to be
on the side of his pupil and see that the thesis was finished, sign it
as the guide and then have it submitted.
A similar incident was repeated and came to light in Delhi in 2005.
On March 15, 2005 there was a grand function, at Vigyan Bhavan, New
Delhi attended by eminent educationists in India, South Asia and rest of
the world. This historic occasion which was given a wide coverage in the
Indian Press was convened to pay national honours to Nobel Laureate
Professor Norman E. Borlaug, a well-known agricultural scientist and
also an active partner in India’s first Green Revolution. All the
speakers who were on the platform highlighted the various contributions
made by Professor Borlaug in theory and practice for the economic
development of India and truly speaking he was in the midst of all the
praise showered on him by everyone gathered there.
When his turn came up Professor Borlaug, did a surprise. He called
the scientists sitting in the third, fifth and eighth row in the
audience by name and identified and introduced to the audience Dr. Raja
Ram, a specialist on wheat; Dr S. K. Vasal, a specialist on maize; DR B.
R. Barwale, a specialist on seed.
He thrilled the audience by announcing that all these scientists by
their credible innovations have contributed immensely to the
agricultural science and there by ignited the productive processes and
agrarian reforms in India and Asia. He asked the scientists to stand up
and ensured the audience cheered and greeted the scientists with great
respect and enthusiasm.
I thought as a journalist, I should relate these two incidents, just
before the convening of the SAARC Education Ministers Conference
scheduled to be held from 26 to 27 at Hotel Hilton, Colombo.
These two incidents show, the value of education sealed in the Indian
society. India has become an industrial giant and its economic miracle
is being felt in every sphere of social life.
The secret behind this success is the enormous investments made by
India during the last few decades in research and development. Starting
a number of Indian institutes of science education and research is
definitely a good effort made by India towards attracting youth towards
science as a career.
Indian education system is globally acclaimed because of pockets of
excellence such as the Indian Institutes of Technology, the Indian
Institutes of Management and the All India Institute of Medical
India is being increasingly seen as a manufacturing and knowledge
In his well-researched article, titled Knowledge Into Power, former
President of India Dr. A. P. J. Abdul Kalam says that one of the major
crises today is un-employability.
Inspite of receiving a formal education, the vast majority of youth
in India suffer from a lack of adequate applied knowledge to take up
jobs with confidence and effectiveness. One of the main reasons for this
drawback is the widening gap between academic knowledge and its
To overcome this loophole, professionals in emerging countries points
out that university curricula should be re-structured to meet the
growing domestic and international demand for human resources with world
class skills. This goal can be reached only when there is a strong
interface between what is taught in the classroom and the actual
requirements of the economy. Otherwise our education system will
continue to produce unfinished products, leading to an even greater
crisis of un-employability.
Of course, education is not just about getting a job, it is also
about becoming a useful and better person for the forward march of the
society. A degree, should not be merely a passport to a lucrative career
but to life itself and the art of living a happy and contended life. The
spirit of initiation, inquiry, experimentation, problem-solving and
truth seeking should once again be made to flourish on our campuses,
instead of blood-baths, criminal assaults and unwanted ragging.
Education Ministers of Bangladesh, Bhutan, India, Nepal, Maldives,
Pakistan, Afghanistan and Sri Lanka are meeting for the first time since
the inception of SAARC in 1985 to carve out a strategy for a higher
education policy that can be put into force in the SAARC region.
Professor Wiswa Warnapala, our Higher Education Minister will submit a
concept paper to achieve this target at this conference. The drafting of
a concept paper for the entire region is not an easy
task as SAARC is a region of contrast........with significant
disparities, in Gross Domestic Product, income levels, national
resources, budgetary allocations for education and population. We have
two nuclear powers within the region but even in these countries, wealth
disparities are immense and level of poverty lines are visible.
Illiteracy is a major impediment to economic development and social
emancipation in the region. Eradication of illiteracy in the region by
utilizing cooperative endeavours within SAARC must be pursued
Devising of appropriate strategies for raising the quality of
education through exchange of information among the universities in the
region should be pursued. While recognizing the importance of mutual
recognition of the educational institutions, necessary inputs should be
geared for the realization of a common regional education standard
through uniform methods of instructions and teaching methods.
The writer is the Media Secretary/Ministry of Higher Education.