President Pranab Mukherjee on Monday expressed the hope that India will once again lead the world in higher education, just like it did for 1,700 years through 6th century BC to 11th century AD.
Speaking at the 60th founder’s day celebrations of the Scindia Kanya Vidyalaya (SKV) in Gwalior, Mukherjee said the current scenario – where the country’s higher education institutions fail to make a mark in the international educational arena – was a matter of great concern.
The President noted how none of India’s 736 universities and over 36,000 colleges have been making a mark in the global rankings of top educational institutions. But the situation has slightly improved since last year, when two institutions – including IIT Delhi – found a place in the list, he added.
In his address, Mukherjee recalled the glory of India’s past, and how its educational institutions attracted students from places across the world like a magnet. “I am confident that in the coming years, more Indian institutions will find a place in global lists. This, after all, is our field. For 1,700 years… we led the world in higher education,” he said.
The President confessed to being pained by how over 6,000 students leave India for higher education abroad every year. “They will come back to Indian universities, but that depends on what kind of education we provide,” he added.
It was in this context that Mukherjee appreciated the founding of the SKV by the late Rajmata of Gwalior, Vijaya Raje Scindia, in 1956 for educating the girl child. “It was not very easy to conceive an exclusive school for girls 60 years ago, but Vijaya Raje Scindia had the courage and conviction to set it up. Today, it is considered among the best schools in India, and I am happy to be here,” he said.
Calling the Indian woman the “real harbinger of change”, the President said: “Despite India achieving independence in 1947, we have not been able to truly empower women in our society. They continue to make sacrifices, carry bondages in day-to-day life, teach and raise their children with nerves of steel… I salute such women!”
Mukherjee said he was privileged to have shared space in Parliament with personalities like Rajmata Vijaya Raje Scindia, Madhav Rao Scindia and Jyotiraditya Scindia.
Rajmata Madhavi Raje Scindia, chairperson of the board of governors of the SKV, gave a brief biographical sketch of the President in her address. Speaking on the legacy of the educational institution, she said her mother-in-law was a visionary who continues to inspire her as well as the students and teachers of SKV.
Union minister of rural development Narendra Singh Tomar said no royal family rates as high as the Scindias when it comes to serving people. The students of SKV make him and Gwalior proud wherever they go, he added.
Om Prakash Kohli, governor of Madhya Pradesh and Gujarat, said that 60 years ago – an age when women empowerment was unheard of – setting up an institution for girls was indeed a visionary deed. “When a girl is educated, it has a cascading effect on her family as well as the generations to come,” he added.
The President released a book titled ‘Carved Mahogany’, containing stories on SKV, as penned by 23 girl students. He also felicitated meritorious students on the occasion. Congress party chief whip in the Lok Sabha and Guna MP Jyotiraditya Scindia, also a member of the SKV board of governors, was present on the occasion.