"Educational institutions have a pivotal role to inculcate in our youth the core civilizational values of love for motherland, performance of duty, compassion for all, tolerance for pluralism, respect for women, honesty in life, elf-restraint in conduct, responsibility in action and discipline," the President said at the 12th convocation ceremony of Rajiv Gandhi University here.
Asserting that education is the bedrock of an enlightened society, he said a good education breeds tolerance for divergent views.
"Our country has done well in terms of economic development. Yet, we cannot claim to have evolved into a truly developed society," he said.
"Development is not only about factories, dams and roads. Development, to my mind, is about people, their values and their devotion to spiritual and cultural heritage of our nation." At a time when we, as a nation, have to make an extra effort to surmount the contemporary moral challenges, it is holistic education that must play a definitive role in shaping our values," Mukherjee said.
The President, who was on a two-day visit to the north eastern state, expressed concerns over the declining standard of country's higher education and suggested its overhaul. "Today, our universities lag behind the best universities in the world. According to an international survey, an Indian university or an institution is missing from the top 200 ranks. Naturally, we feel shock," he said."India is poised to become a world power. Not merely physical expansion is enough, we must have quality expansion. There is no dearth of quality teachers and students, what we need is quality education and an atmosphere for that," the President said.
"Why should our students go to abroad. Why can't we create reverse reaction. For that, we need to emphasise on education and research," he said.
Mukherjee said ancient universities in the country had excelled in providing education not only for one or two years but for 1,800 years, yet none of our institutes figures in list of world's top 200 such centres.
"Our ancient universities--Takshashila, Nalanda Vikramashila, Valabhi, Somapura and Odantapuri-- were renowned seats of learning that attracted scholars from outside."
Mukherjee said country's higher academic model must undergo significant changes from the traditional pattern of delivering education.
He said every university has shortage of teachers but that cannot be overcome overnight.
Technology can play an important role for it, he said. The President also laid emphasis on conducting research activities in universities across the country.
Mukherjee asked students of the university to conduct innovative research on border trade opportunities and ways to integrate northeast economy with the national and global economies, among other, to help in the region's development.
"Arunachal Pradesh is on the threshold of a major transformation. Economic sectors, especially hydro-electric power and tourism, have immense potential to drive the
economic development of this state and which can be an engine of growth in this beautiful state. Education has to be a facilitator to this change," Mukherjee said in his address.
He said there is scope for conducting innovative research in northeast India, a region rich in natural resources and biodiversity, and this (Rajiv Gandhi) university must
prioritize the fields of research that it wishes to undertake.
"You must carry out inter-disciplinary research on natural resource management.
"You must conduct research on challenges to hill economy, conflict between traditional and modern institutions, border trade opportunities and integration of the northeast economy with the national and global economies," he said addressing
Mukherjee, who had arrived here on his maiden visit to the state after becoming the President, praised Arunachal Pradesh for its natural beauty.
The President congratulated the students who were awarded degrees and gold medals for their meritorious performance and asked them to help less fortunate brethren of the society by educating them.
"There are many who do not even get an occasion to enter the portals of colleges or universities in this country. The society, which has invested in your education, can
legitimately expect a due dividend from you.
"You can pay this dividend by helping your less fortunate brethren. You can shape the destiny of our nation by your drive, initiative and ingenuity," the President added.
Rajiv Gandhi University, formerly Arunachal University, is one of the premier institutes in this far off region of northeast India to provide engineering, economics, life sciences, medical and management education, among others.
Former Prime Minister late Indira Gandhi had on February 4, 1984 laid the foundation stone for the university situated at Rono Hills, Doimukh under Papumpare district, about 35 kms from Itanagar.