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The President of India, Shri Pranab Mukherjee attended the National Education Day Celebrations organized by the Ministry of Human Resource Development today (November 11, 2014) at Vigyan Bhavan to mark the birth anniversary of Maulana Abul Kalam Azad.

Speaking on the occasion, the President said that National Education Day is a day of celebration, a day to celebrate the birth anniversary of Maulana Abul Kalam Azad, India’s first education minister. Maulana Azad was a key architect of education in independent India. As Minister of Education, he had a challenging task of conceiving an education system to develop a national spirit, an element that was missing from the colonial system. He introduced a system to inculcate a rational approach and spirit of enquiry in the education curriculum. The President describedMaulana Azad as an institution builder and said that University Grants Commission, Indian Institutes of Technology and other bodies owe their origins to his tireless efforts. To create socio-religious and cultural inter-linkages in India, he set up a number of institutions – Lalit Kala Academi, Sangeet Natak Academi and Sahitya Academi.

The President stated that it is education that can lead to the trinity of progress, which are greater political participation, social emancipation and upward economic mobility. He said that we have traversed a long distance from just one out of four children in school in the early fifties to a school accessible to every child today and almost universal enrolment with gender parity. In recent times, our expenditure on education has risen – from 2.9 percent of GDP in 2008-09 to 3.3 percent in 2013-14. Quoting Maulana Azad, he said, “Schools are the laboratories which produce the future citizens of a State. The quality of the State therefore depends upon the quality of such laboratories”. Universal coverage by education should be complemented by universal high standards in education. Our education programmes must be driven by the 3 E’s of expansion, equity and excellence. We must establish norms and performance benchmarks for learning processes and outcomes and strictly enforce them across all schools. We must also promote clean environment in our schools. He said that he was confident that the ‘Swachh Bharat: Swachh Vidyalaya’ campaign will ensure every school with properly-maintained water, sanitation and hygiene facilities.

The President said that there is need to propagate technology use in the dispensation of education. A fast digitalizing world holds scope to usher in sweeping changes in pedagogy and teaching-learning structures. Our efforts in harnessing new technology are at a nascent stage. We cannot afford to lose time. We have to leverage our advanced technological institutions and leadership position in IT. Alongside, we have to remove the wedge between digital ‘haves’ and ‘have-nots’. Sarva Shiksha Abhiyan, which seeks to bridge the digital divide through computer education, should look for inter-linkages with the ‘Digital India’ programme that envisages provision of digital infrastructure to create a digitally-empowered knowledge society.

The President stated that a profound objective of education is transformation of the individual and the nation. India has the largest young population in the world. It poses both a challenge and an opportunity to our policymakers to harness the youth power productively by equipping them with relevant knowledge and skills. Modern education promotes a spirit of competitiveness and utilitarianism. But it should never lead to creation of a generation that turns a blind eye to the problems afflicting the society. The youth should be pro-active participants in nation-building. The onus is on them to find solutions to burning problems in sanitation, drinking water, energy, accessibility to remote areas, public health and so on. It is incumbent on our educational institutions to instill in our students a sense of ownership of the country’s future, and responsibility in steering India to greater heights. It is equally important to inculcate in them values – patriotism, compassion, honesty, discipline and respect for women – that have cherished human society and our ancient civilization. Maulana Azad had effected sea-change in our education system six decades back. It is time again to rejuvenate it to usher in real change. On this National Education Day, let us all vow to make that happen.

On the occasion, the President also launched ‘Know Your College Portal’ and the website of Unnat Bharat Abhiyan. The programme also witnessed the launch of two scholarship schemes – Saksham and Pragati. The Skills Credit Framework developed by AICTE was released by the Union Minister of Human Resource Development and its first copy was presented to the President.


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