President Pranab Mukherjee today said reinvigorating higher education in India as well as in other parts of the world had become a major challenge, especially in public institutions. He said rising cost of learning and market-driven fast track skill acquisition were some of the factors which created a challenge before such institutions. The president was addressing the first convocation of the English and Foreign Languages University (EFLU) here. “Today, sustaining and reinvigorating higher education in India as well as in other parts of the world has become a major challenge, especially so in public institutions. Challenges exist for such institutions, both from outside and inside. At least four distinct factors impinge from outside as well as inside on the administration of an institution of higher learning.
“According to me, these factors are- escalation of costs of learning; narrow pragmatics, i.e. market-oriented fast track skill acquisition as the sole goal of learning; the allure of invasive dominant communication systems depleting attention span and corrosion of trust,” he said.Any institution’s future is dependent on enabling the faculty, students and the staff to overcome cynicism, he said. “Cynicism is an easy alibi to evade responsibility…One way of achieving this (overcoming cynicism) is making everyone a stakeholder in collaborative institution building,” he said. “Wherever the Buddha traversed – seeds of knowledge sprouted and flourished even as Nalanda, after Takshashila, held the beacon of light very high for over a millennium across lands and seas and welcomed drifting seekers of knowledge and provided them a lasting resting place,” Mukherjee said.
Invoking the Upanishads, the president said,”‘Sarve jana sukhino bhavantu’ (may all people be happy) should be the driving impulse of any conception of education in any period or place. “It is important to recall that the singular feature of ‘vidya dana’ (gifting learning) that this country has extended on a planetary scale was aimed at attaining happiness for everyone,” he added. Speaking about Brahma Kumaris, the president said the organisation has been doing a commendable job as far as spreading kindness and harmony among people was concerned. “No doubt we want economic growth, we want technological development, we want scientific pursuit of knowledge. But at the end, everything comes to a point that we want to have happiness…happiness of the people…happiness of the mankind,” Mukherjee said.
The president left for Delhi in the evening. Governor ESL Narasimhan and Telangana Chief Minister K Chandasekhar Rao went to see him off.