"Education for Dignity of Human life"

My Dear Citizens of India, 

On the eve of the 58th Independence Day, I extend to you my best wishes for your happiness and prosperity. My greetings to all of you at home and abroad. Let us, on this occasion, remember with gratitude, the selfless and devoted services of our Armed Forces and those of the Paramilitary Forces, who are guarding our frontiers on the land, the sea, and in the air. I take this opportunity on this Independence Day to convey the best wishes of the people of India, to our men and women participating in the Olympic Games in Athens. 

I met 200 freedom fighters from different parts of the country on 9th August 2004. I saw in their ripe age, their enthusiasm to bring back the nationalism as a living movement. I salute all our freedom fighters on this occasion. Let me dedicate this Independence Day broadcast to those great souls who pioneered our Independence movement. We remember them with reverence and gratitude for liberating us from centuries of foreign rule. Their saga of sacrifice has realized the singular and the noble vision of heralding an independent nation.

Dear citizens, we must realize, the significance and the value of our freedom movement. Fortunately after our independence in 1947, we have come a long way in the field of education and moved towards a knowledge society, as a result of the vision of our educationalists and the policies and actions of successive governments. Many of our educational institutions have excelled in the world. In order to revitalize our self-esteem and culture, it is vital to emphasize the role of education system for creating an enlightened, dynamic and prosperous society utilizing the advancement of science and technology. I therefore propose to discuss the education system in some detail in the later part of my address.

General Elections

The nation is happy that the conduct of the recent general elections and transition to a new government has taken place in a peaceful and orderly manner. In an increasingly complex world environment, this significant achievement emerging from India is yet another valuable contribution to world peace and stability. Now that the government is in place, we all have to get on with the work of building the nation.

External Relations

We are steadily strengthening our presence in Regional and International institutions including the United Nations. We also realize it is essential to strengthen and restructure the United Nations to make it more purposeful. We cherish and advocate multi-polarity in the world order that respects the principles of sovereignty, non-intervention, freedom and democracy. While not forgetting the painful lessons of history, our foreign policy is aimed at a vision that seeks to establish India, the largest democracy in the world as a developed country with its rightful place in the international fora.

Defence & Security

With the rapidly changing global security environment, our nation’s domains of security concerns have greatly expanded from what it was after Independence. Another measure of our nation’s strength is the effective, firm and fair handling of a series of internal low intensity conflicts and the proxy war. I note with satisfaction of our continuing efforts towards good neighbourly relations, particularly the sustained progress of the peace process between India and Pakistan.

Economy

Our economy has yielded a growth rate of Gross Domestic Product by over 8%, driven by broad based accelerated growth in agriculture, infrastructure, manufacture and service. Sustaining our growth, containing annual inflation rate, containing revenue deficit through prudent revenue enhancement and expenditure management are the other challenges for Centre and the States. The root cause of poverty lies in illiteracy, unemployment and lack of basic healthcare and there is a need to sharply increase public spending in these areas.

Water management

Certain regions in the country like Bihar and Assam are constantly affected by floods every year, and we are witnessing that even now. There is a need to find a long-term solution to control flood and store and utilize the surplus water for usage during dry season and also the linking of regional river basins. In the Gangetic plain and in the Northeastern region, I would recommend construction of layered wells in the entry points of Kosi river flowing from Nepal and Brahmaputra flowing from Tibet. These layered wells will store the floodwater at different levels and will control the intensity of damage in low-lying areas by reducing velocity of flow. In addition we may consider the possibility of underground water storage systems at river basin sites and also other places. The water thus stored will be useful at the time of need. Water mission has been rightly identified as a priority area by my government.

Employment Generation

Our employment generation system has not kept the pace with the inflow of educated youth. A three-pronged strategy is needed to make education more attractive and simultaneously create employment potential – how do we do that? Firstly, the educational system should highlight the importance of entrepreneurship and prepare the students right from the college education to get oriented towards setting up of the enterprises. Diversity of skills and perseverance in work makes an entrepreneur. In addition, college syllabi even for arts, science, and commerce courses should include topics and practicals where such entrepreneurship is possible. Secondly, the banking system should provide venture capital right from every village level to the prospective entrepreneurs for undertaking new enterprises. Banks have to be proactive to support the innovative products for enabling wealth generation by young entrepreneurs by setting aside the "conventional tangible asset syndrome". Thirdly, there has to be an economic pull for generation of marketable products and enhancement of purchasing power among the people. This can come through by implementation of mega programmes such as rural connectivity, regional linking of rivers, infrastructural missions, power missions and tourism.

We need education system to focus on high value and productive employment opportunities. The recent study indicates that the unemployment level in the country is 9% of 400 million employable people. That is around 36 million. We can definitely find productive employment for all the 36 million people by launching certain missions like bio-diesel generation through plants such as Jatropha, dry land and herbal farming in the available 33 million hectares of waste land earmarked for cultivation.

Mission of Education

Education is the most important element for growth and prosperity of a nation. India is in the process of transforming itself into a developed nation by 2020. Yet we have 350 million people who need literacy and many more who have to acquire employable skills to suit the emerging modern India and the globe. Children who belong to weaker sections of our society are undernourished, and only a small percentage of them manage to complete 8 years of satisfactory education. We need to think specifically for them. Education is indeed a fundamental right of every Indian child. Can we allow the situation to continue in which millions of these children are forced into life long poverty? The requirement is that the parents should be able to go to any school nearby and admit their children and happily come back home with the confidence that their children will get a good and value based quality education in that school. The conditions of differently-abled children require equally important attention. In view of such critical issues and their importance, and also to break out of our historical mindset, an effective and self renewing education system is therefore fundamental to the survival and growth of civilizations, therefore I now propose to address the issues pertaining to education in some detail and suggest some solutions, which can be considered for implementation.

Inequality of Access to Educational Resources:

Let me share with you one important concern: unequal access to educational resources still exists due to a variety of reasons. For example, I have seen in our villages three types of families. The fortunate ones who realize the importance of educating the young ones at any cost, guide them at all critical stages due to their economical well-being. There are those families, who might realize the importance of education, but are not aware of the opportunities in time, nor the procedures and ways to realize these opportunities for their children. There is a third category of families who are economically weak and do not realize the value of education and hence for generations together their children are neglected and continue to live in poverty.

It is essential that we enlighten and create widespread awareness of education among all sections of society particularly in rural areas and among urban poor. We should use technology for this important social purpose. It is possible for NGOs, other social and philanthropic institutions and media to focus on this area of creating awareness. We should also mobilize necessary resources for providing education to the underprivileged people. Let us elaborate the way ahead.

Mobilizing Resources for the Mission of Education:

Over the last 50 years, successive Governments have been committed to achieving the national goal of universal education and has steadily increased the budgetary allocation for education. However, 35% of our adult populations are yet to achieve literacy. The expenditure on education as a percentage of our gross domestic product has a direct impact on our literacy. Today our expenditure on education in India is little more than 4% of our GDP. If we have to achieve nearly 100% literacy, it is necessary to increase its expenditure on education to about 6 to 7% of the GDP. This 2 to 3% increase has to be sustained only for a few years. Thereafter, a lower percentage of GDP allocation to education will be adequate to sustain the high degree of literacy in this country for all time to come.

Clearly public expenditure alone from Governments in the Centre and States might not able to meet the challenge of mobilizing an additional 2 to 3% of GDP for the mission of education. It is here that we have to generate additional resources for this noble mission. Expenditure on education, whether in the Centre or in the States can no longer be provided only by the respective Ministries or Departments for human resource development. Indeed, every department of Government must play a significant role as a partner of the human resource development organization, and contribute resources in terms of budget and infrastructure for implementing the mission of providing quality education to the whole nation.

To augment the Government resources, I appeal to the entire corporate sector to emulate the example set by some corporate leaders who have focused on education to make a national difference. Different regions of the country may be adopted by the corporate sectors within an overall national mission for education. The mechanism should enable the persons to have freedom to innovate and deliver directly.

Standardization of Teaching:

The preferred school concept is arising because of differential quality and standards of teaching. There is a need to make the quality of teaching high in all schools. Also there is a need for preparatory education even in rural areas to make the child competitive when he or she joins the regular school. For running such schools in rural areas NGOs and corporate sectors can play a vital role. Also rich parents who can afford can adopt certain number of rural children for educating in preparatory schools. 

Planning for good education for the children in villages:

I would like to recall a question asked by Master Kuldeep Yadav, Class X, of Etawah during my visit to Saifai, he asked me:

Mr. President, Villages are also full of talents but facilities are available in the towns/cities only. Have you planned something for these Children so that they can get good education in the villages?

I was glad to see a child’s concern for his rural counterparts. We need to address this problem, which has multiple dimensions. It tells about the non-availability of infrastructural facilities in schools, the problem of syllabi followed in the school and the non-availability of quality teachers.

Job opportunities being national, the syllabus should be structured in such a manner that it should meet the changing societal needs, fulfill the needs of the occupation and inculcate high moral values among the students in addition to learning skills. The delivery of quality education is possible only through quality teachers. The teacher has to be a committed teacher who loves teaching and children. And also the teacher has to be equipped with all the knowledge required for effective teaching. The self-esteem of the teacher must be high and the teacher must have the quality to become a role model for the children. Some element of competitive rewarding is to be done based on performance. This competency has to be built up throughout the country through a massive teachers education programme delivered through a tele-education system and continuously updated. This can be funded and implemented by a consortium of Government, educational institutions with the corporate sectors providing value added services. There is an urgent need that every school should have basic amenities such as good building equipped with ventilated, lighted, airy and spacious class rooms besides library, laboratories including the latest IT tools and infrastructure, safe drinking water, clean toilets, play ground. This is possible by earmarking the additional 2 to 3% of GDP.

The Role of Parents:

Parents have an important role in the education of the children and making them enlightened citizens. They must be aware of the need for good education of the child, male or female. Like teachers, parents also should set an example for the child in their overall behaviour and conduct. This will enable the child to develop love and respect for their parents and see them as role models.

Reducing Dropouts:

It is reported that 39% of children drop out from school after studying 5th class and 55% drop out after studying up to 8th class. This situation need remedial action, especially since assent has been accorded for the 86th Constitution Amendment Act – Right to Education Bill for children between the age group of 5 and 14 years.But an Act alone cannot achieve the goal unless the education is delivered in a manner, which will take into account the socio-ecnomic reality, and perception of people to whom it is addressed. Apart from attracting children to schools, the education system should be able to provide nourishment and inject creativity among the children. Also the aim of the education system should be to build character, human values, enhance the learning capacity through technology and build the confidence among children to face the future.

I have seen an education model implemented in Karnataka, which provides an accelerated learning using the computer aids so that children can have a creative learning with the tools of creative animation through computers. Dropouts are identified and brought to the school. This holistic phenomenon of learning once ingrained in the primary stage where there is a happy learning process and a non-threatening evaluation, has led to voluntary learning by the participants.

System of Entrance Examination:

Recently, I have received many e-mails from children and parents regarding too many entrance examinations which the children have to appear from nursery up to plus two level for entry into schools, colleges, universities and professional courses. This I consider as a heavy burden on the children. Also, it has led to proliferation of tuitions and coaching institutes for preparing the students for entrance examinations. For entry into universities and professional colleges, we have to devise a common all India examination to be conducted by a nominated institution of Government. Also, the examination must be so designed that attending a coaching course does not provide undue advantage to privileged students. Entrance test should be more in the nature of aptitude assessment rather than creating a seniority list.

Examination Reforms:

I find there is a demand for more transparent and reliable system of examination, evaluation and reporting. It is also noticed that the examination primarily tests the memory of the students. I remember during my study in MIT, Chennai in mid 1950s, they used to conduct open book examination. This used to be one of the tough examinations for the students. I would recommend that the examining bodies may consider introduction of open book system of examination. This will promote creativity among the teachers in setting questions and the evaluation of the creative ability of the students. A secure examination system is the need of the hour.

Renewal of Evaluation system:

The examining bodies should have a reliable evaluation system and timely declaration of results. After the initial evaluation of the answer paper a centralized core group can draw random sample from each batch and carry out independent evaluation. If there is no discrepancy between the initial evaluation and the core group evaluation, and it is consistent with the performance of the students, it will be presumed that the batch marking is satisfactory. In case of a discrepancy further samples should be drawn for verification. Special training must be carried out by examining bodies for certifying the examiners in the evaluation process. In short the examining bodies must evolve very good procedures and then get ISO Certification for their evaluation system.

Need for Adoption of Safety Measures:

The recent tragedy involving school children at Kumbakonam must have rung some bells in all the educational institutions in the country. It is the responsibility of sponsoring organization to see that their schools maintain basic minimum norms both in the academic field as well as in the physical facilities which they provide on their campuses.Certain safety features must be built-in our school buildings without which it should not be possible to get affiliation by these schools. And there should not be any discretion available with anyone, to waive off these conditions. Honesty in implementation is vital at all levels.

Technology Enhanced Education

Constraints of time and space together with the rapid obsolescence of knowledge in some areas of science and technology, have created a huge demand for different courses from different institutions in the distance mode. There is a need for a working digital library system that alone can, in the long run, provide the kind of access required for a Knowledge Society. Technology Enhanced Learning is a solution. It attempts to exploit the rapid developments in Information and Communication Technology. As the communications band-width continues to increase and the cost of computer power continues to drop, Technology Enhanced Learning will become an economically viable solution. Virtual classrooms of the future will have students from many locations taught by a team of geographically distributed Instructors through tele-education delivery system.

Conclusion

Ultimately, education in its real sense is the pursuit of truth. It is an endless journey through knowledge and enlightenment. Such a journey opens up new vistas of development of humanism where there is no scope nor room for pettiness, disharmony, jealousy, hatred or enmity. It transforms a human being into a wholesome whole, a noble soul and an asset to the universe. Universal brotherhood in its true sense becomes the sheet anchor for such education. Real education enhances the dignity of a human being and increases his or her self-respect. If only the real sense of education could be realized by each individual, and carried forward in every field of human activity the world will be so much a better place to live in.

Mission of education by Government at Centre or States or the combination is the foundation to ensure the creation of enlightened citizens who will make a prosperous, happy and strong nation.

May God bless you.