President Pranab Mukherjee underlined the need for making higher education accessible especially in remote areas and its affordability should be ensured.
He said this while addressing the 20th convocation of Himachal Pradesh University here on Friday. He graced the occasion as chief guest and also delivered the convocation address.
“Accessibility and affordability are necessary steps for inclusion. To make higher education affordable for meritorious students belonging to socio-economically difficult backgrounds, measures like scholarships, student loans and self-help schemes are necessary,” he said.
He expressed concern that though India's higher education system was the second largest in the world, the enrolment rate for 18 to 24 years of age group was only 7% as compared to 21% in Germany and 34 % in the US.
Mukherjee stressed on the need for preparing graduates to compete with the best in the world for which they need to be equipped with life skills such as self-awareness, empathy, creative thinking, problem solving, effective communication, inter-personal relationship and stress and emotion management as these skills were important for healthy development of an individual and should find due place in our academic curricula.
“Availability of quality teachers in academic institutions is paramount. Our higher education institutions are short of good faculty. This may hamper our efforts at quality improvement. Hence, we must place top priority in filling vacancies and also building capacity in our teachers,” he maintained.
Expressing concern over the rising incidents of crime against women and children, he emphasised the need for effective measures to ensure their safety and security and also for the need to arrest the moral decline in society and find answers for reversing the degradation of values.
“Education is a necessary tool for progress, human empowerment and social change. Our universities have the capability to shape the minds of the youth and act as guides in meeting the contemporary moral challenges and ensure that our civilisational values of love for motherland, performance of duty, compassion for all, tolerance for pluralism, respect for women and elderly, truth and honesty in life, discipline and self-restraint in conduct and responsibility in action are fully entrenched in the young minds,” he added.
Calling innovation the key to future economic progress, he said China and the US were at the forefront of innovation as each filed over 5 lakh patent applications in 2011, whereas India lagged behind with only 42,000 applications.
Mukherjee further added that the decade of 2010-20 has been declared as the decade of innovation and this should carry meaning for the common man.
“There are grassroots innovations that require technological and commercial mentoring for developing them into viable products,” he said.
In a conference of vice-chancellors of central universities held this year, he disclosed that a recommendation was made to set up innovators' clubs in the central universities to facilitate interaction between the teaching and student communities and grassroots innovators.
He invited all present to join the festival of innovations.
Prior to his convocation address, he conferred degrees, medals and prizes on achievers in various academics.
He lauded those women achievers who were conferred with awards as they outnumbered men in academics.
The President conferred the degree of Doctor of Science on RC Sobti, vice-chancellor, Central University, Lucknow, PhD degree on Ashwani Kumar, Governor of Nagaland, Honorary degree in absentia on Padma Shri Vijay Sharma, renowned artist from Chamba district, Honorary PhD degree on chancellor of DY Patil University, Kolhapur, Sanjay D Patil and 21 other gold medallists of the university for 2011-2012.
Of the 21 gold medalists, 18 were women, who had excelled in their fields of academics.