I am delighted to be here today among so many bright and talented youngsters for the Annual Prize Distribution Ceremony of Shyam Lal College.
Shyam Lal College, a constituent college of the University of Delhi, was established in 1964 by the great visionary and entrepreneur Padmashree (late) Shri Shyam Lal Gupta, the then Chairman of Shyam Lal charitable trust. I am told that the foundation stone of the College was laid down by none other than Dr. Zakir Hussain, the former Vice President of India.
I am delighted to know that SLC has celebrated its Golden Jubilee in 2014.
I am also pleased to know that this College has become a center of academic excellence and is counted among the best institutions in the University of Delhi.
I am also happy to know that SLC has, since its inception attempted to make quality education accessible to students, especially girls, from economically and educationally disadvantaged communities of East Delhi.
What is particularly noteworthy is that SLC is fully powered by renewable energy and has taken up several green initiatives and recycling efforts.
I understand that SLC, in a visionary move to maximize teaching-learning outcomes, has established six important centers for Industry Interaction, skill development, women empowerment, Gandhi studies etc for the all round development of its students.
My dear young friends,
The Annual Day function of an institution is a culmination of all the activities for the year and a celebration of the achievements of its students and teachers.
Let me take this opportunity to congratulate all those who have been awarded medals and prizes here today. These honors are a recognition of your hard work, your talent and your commitment to excellence.
Excellence is never an accident or a happy coincidence. It is always the result of unwavering dedication, intelligent planning, relentless determination and focused effort.
Excellence is not a destination. It is a continuing process of setting higher goals and preparing yourself to achieve them. It is a consistent process of self improvement, the unlimited capability to adapt and reform.
I hope that these accolades that you receive today will set the stage for an illustrious life filled with many such achievements and triumphs.
My dear young friends,
India has a rich and glorious history of pursuit of excellence in education.
It has been estimated that the history of education in India is nearly 5000 years old.
Ancient scriptures known as Vedas formed the strong foundations of Indian civilization.
The Vedic Age presented equality of opportunity and freedom of thought and expression to both men and women. Personality development and learning through practical experiments and activities was given utmost importance.
Education during the Vedic age was a journey from darkness to light, from mortality to immortality, from chaos to order and from misery to spiritual bliss.
The Middle Ages in Indian history was a rather dynamic time for education. It was during this period that the famed citadels of learning, the Nalanda and the Vikramshila Universities thrived, attracting seekers of knowledge from far and wide.
Since independence, India has made many gains in the field of education. India's higher education system is the world's third largest in terms of students, next to China and the United States. India is all set to be one of the largest education hubs of the world.
India is also one of the youngest nations in the world with nearly 242 million 10-24 year olds. 65% of our population is below 35 years of age. This is an incredible demographic dividend waiting to be exploited. We will be successful in harnessing this immense youth power only if we educate, skill and gainfully and meaningfully employ this burgeoning youth population.
Unfortunately, our education system is fraught with a number of challenges. We have to address these challenges systemically and systematically.
If we neglect education, we neglect growth of the nation as a whole.
Investing in education is investing in the future of the vibrant nation, which is why the Kothari Commission had said that “the destiny of our country is being shaped in our classrooms”.
We have to begin by increasing this investment from the current 3% of GDP to atleast 6% by 2022, as opined by NITI Aayog in its report published in December last year.
I believe that there is also an imminent need to re-think and re-engineer our entire education system.
We need to fundamentally re-cast our education system, our institutions, our pedagogy, our teaching and our learning methods and we must start from the very roots, from primary education.
It is an imperative to consistently ensure not only 100% enrolment but also make sure that all children learn at a high level of proficiency.
No child must be left behind.
We must ensure access, diversity, equity and quality in primary education.
Improving the state of primary education would also require a renewed focus on childhood nutrition.
We must not let education be held hostage in the vicious cycle of poverty and malnutrition.
Special attention must be given to children belonging to vulnerable sections such as the differently abled.
Gender equality must be one of the strong pillars upon which we rebuild our education system.
Swami Vivekananda once remarked that ‘The present system of education is all wrong. The mind is crammed with facts before it knows how to think’.
Textbook knowledge, rigid ideas, and examination marks should not take precedence over informed, open debates
India now faces equity, quality and employability issues.
Employability is not just the ability to get a job, but the acquisition of skills, knowledge and tools to succeed in careers.
Employability is possessing creativity, problem-solving skills and an ability to work in a highly inter-connected, interdependent global work environment.
Our centres of higher education must move away from long hours of lecturing and take up newer teaching methods using case studies, problem solving and role playing to improve employability.
Institutions of higher education must have an industry focus and encourage students to take up live projects, internships and enable them to constantly interact with the industry and corporate bodies.
My dear young friends,
Education consists of three important pillars: Knowledge, skills and attitudes.
All three are equally important.
Practical application based education is the need of the hour.
There has to be more emphasis on theoretical knowledge till now. This must change.
Our graduates are good at routine, transactional work but often fail when it comes to researching and innovating.
We need to emphasize creativity and critical thinking to produce graduates who can confidently navigate the uncertain world of work and learning in the 21st century.
Skill development should also be an integral part of education. Apart from imparting skills which aid in the performance of jobs, we must also nurture skills such as conflict resolution and team building, along with soft skills such as language proficiency and communication.
Another important skill we need to impart in our youngsters is that of calculated risk taking. We are doing our best to promote entrepreneurship and the ability to take risks in a country that is culturally risk averse. This is the key to entrepreneurial success.
Flexibility, adaptability and the ability to learn, unlearn and relearn at a fast pace are also crucial to flourish in a technology driven world of automation, where new jobs emerge as old jobs become extinct at a rapid pace.
Education is also a process through which we reform and refine our mindsets and attitudes
I sincerely believe that perseverance and empathy are crucial qualities that we must nurture in young people. In a world that is ridden with violence, discrimination and injustice, it is important that our children grow up with love and compassion for their fellow human beings. Education which does not build character was among the seven deadly social sins enunciated by Gandhi ji.
The education we provide our children must enable, empower and enlighten them to rise above the narrow walls of community, caste, race and gender that divide us and persevere to create a unified, peaceful and progressive world.
My dear sisters and brothers,
Even as we aspire to be a world leader, we must also anchor ourselves firmly in the moral values and ethical principles which bring peace and contentment in life.
Let me conclude with a thought that Mahatma Gandhi once enunciated. He said, ‘Literacy in itself is no education. Literacy is not the end of education or even the beginning. By education I mean an all-round drawing out of the best in the child and man-body, mind and spirit." I hope that this temple of learning imparts education that brings out the best in every learner.
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